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Civil Soc ie t y and t he De ve lopme nt of De moc rac y

Lar r y Diamond
Est udio/Wor king Paper 1997/101
J une 1997
Larry Diamond is Senior Research Fellow at t he Hoover Inst it ut ion, co-edit or of t he
J ournal of Democracy, and co-dir ect or of t he Nat ional Endowment for Democracys
Int ernat ional Forum for Democr at ic St udies.This paper dr aws from four seminar s
on Developing Democracy: Towar d Consolidat ion, which he gave at t he Cent er for
Advanced St udy in t he Social Sciences of t he J uan Mar ch Inst it ut e in Madr id on 7,
12, 13 and 14 November 1996.
In the burgeoning theoretical and empirical literature on democratization, few issues are
more central and diffuse than the question of elite versus mass influence. Is it primarily elites
who make, shape, and consolidate democracy? Or does the public matter? If so, how, when, and
to what degree?
Since the early 1980s, most scholarly studies of democratization have given primary
emphasis to the divisions, alliances, choices, calculations, and strategic alliances among elites
in both the authoritarian regime and its democratic opposition. A prominent line of work on
democratic consolidation has also centered quite explicitly and unapologetically on the behavior,
organization, and culture of political elites. It considers that democratic consolidation occurs
once there emerges a consensually unified elite that shares a common commitment to the rules
of the democratic game, a broader set of norms about the rules of political conduct, and a dense
structure of interaction that fosters personal familiarity and trust.
This line of thinking bears a
strong kinship to theories that locate the origins of democracy in political pacts among
contending, even violently opposed, political elites.

Michael Bur t on, Richar d Gunt her , and J ohn Higley, Int r oduct ion: Elit e Tr ansfor mat ions
and Democr at ic Regimes, in J . Higley and R .Gunt her , eds., Elites and Democratic Consolidation
in Latin America and S outhern Europe (Cambr idge: Cambr idge Univer sit y Pr ess, 1992). See also
Michael G. Bur t on and J ohn Higley, Elit e Set t lement s, American S ociological Review 52 (1987):
295-307, and Higley and Bur t on, The Elit e Var iable in Democr at ic Tr ansit ions and Br eakdowns,
American S ociological Review 54 (1989): 17-32.
The most influential early work in this regard was the four-volume study by Guillermo ODonnell,
Philippe C. Schmitter, and Laurence Whitehead, eds., 1ransitions from Authoritarian Rule (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1986), particularly the theoretical volume by ODonnell and Schmitter subtitled 1entative
Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies. Treatments of the role of elite pacts in the process of transition are also
found (more or less explicitly) in Adam Przeworski, "The Games of Transition," in Scott Mainwaring, Guillermo
ODonnell and J. Samuel Valenzuela, eds., Issues in Democratic ConsoliJation. 1he New South American
Democracies in Comparative Perspective (Notre Dame: University of Indiana Press, 1992); Donald Share,
"Transitions to Democracy and Transition through Transaction," Comparative Political StuJies 19 (1987): 525-548;
Terry Lynn Karl, Dilemmas of Democratization in Latin America, Comparative Politics 23, no. 1 (October 1990):
1-21; Samuel P. Huntington, 1he 1hirJ have. Democrati:ation in the Late 1wentieth Century (Norman: University
of Oklahoma Press, 1991), and the above cited works on elite settlements by Higley and Gunther. For a treatment
of elite pacts within a broader approach that locates democratic stability in the emergence of self-enfor cing limit s
on t he st at e, t o solve int r insic coor dinat ion pr oblems among cit izens, see Bar r y R. Weingast , The
Polit ical Foundat ions of Democr acy and t he Rule of Law, American Political S cience Review, J une
1997, for t hcoming.
Without question, political elites - and thus politicians - are indispensable to bringing
about democracy and making it work. Particularly in the delicately balanced, unstable, and
highly uncertain periods of authoritarian breakdown and regime transition, the choices made and
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alliances forged among a relatively small set of leaders and strategists in the government, the
military, political parties, trade unions, other interest groups, and various types of civic
organizations do play the key role in shaping whether regime change will occur, and how it will
occur - violently or peacefully, gradually or abruptly, to democracy or to some new authoritarian
or hybrid regime.
Beyond the transition, elites have a profound - and I would even concede, preeminent -
impact in determining whether new democracies become stable, effective, and consolidated.
This impact goes well beyond the cultural dimension of forging a common commitment to
democracy and its specific constitutional rules. It encompasses the types of institutions and rules
that elites craft - whether the system is parliamentary or presidential; whether it facilitates
majoritarian or consensual government; whether it concentrates power at the center or disperses
it to multiple levels of government; whether it provides for strong, autonomous institutions of
accountability - or agencies of restraint, such as a constitutional court, auditor-general, and
central bank - to check the power of elected officials and ensure good governance. And it has
to do with how government, party, and interest group leaders exercise their power - not just their
commitment to democracy in principle, but their ability to bargain with one another, form
coalitions, mobilize public support, and respond to public pressures and preferences.
As these latter two criteria suggest, elites may be preeminent, but they are not the whole
story. Democracy is not just a system in which elites acquire the power to rule through a
competitive struggle for the peoples vote, as Joseph Schumpeter defined it.
It is also a political
system in which government must be held accountable to the people, and in which mechanisms
must exist for making it responsive to their passions, preferences, and interests. Moreover, if it
is liberal democracy that we have in mind, then the political system must also provide for a rule

Capitalism, S ocialism, and Democracy, 2nd. ed.. (New Yor k: Har per , 1947), p. 269.
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of law, and rigorously protect the right of individuals and groups to speak, publish, assemble,
demonstrate, lobby, and organize to pursue their interests and passions.

For elabor at ion of t his dist inct ion, see Lar r y Diamond, Is The Thir d Wave Over ? J ournal
of Democracy 7, no. 3 (J uly 1996): 20-37.
Without free, fair, and regular electoral competition, government cannot be held truly
accountable to the people. But elections are not enough. Democracy, and especially liberal
democracy, requires multiple avenues for the people to express their interests and preferences,
to influence policy, and to scrutinize and check the exercise of state power continuously, in
between elections as well as during them.
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The mass public matters for democratization in two senses: in its often pivotal role (too
little appreciated by the scholarly literature) in helping to effect a transition to democracy, and
in the never-ending quest to deepen democracy beyond its formal structure. If, with Richard
Sklar, we think of democracy in Jevelopmental terms, as a political system that emerges
gradually in fragments or parts, and is always capable of becoming more liberal, inclusive,
responsive, accountable, effective, and just, then we must see democratization not simply as a
limited period of transition from one set of formal regime rules to another, but rather as an
ongoing process, a perpetual challenge, a recurrent struggle.

Richard L. Sklar: "Developmental Democracy," Comparative StuJies in Society anJ History 29, no. 4
(1987) pp. 686-714, and "Towards a Theory of Developmental Democracy, in Adrian Leftwich, ed., Democracy
anJ Development. 1heory anJ Practice (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996), pp. 25-44.
In many of the new democracies that have emerged during the past two decades - what
Samuel Huntington has called the third wave of global democratization - competitive elections
do not ensure liberty, responsiveness, and a rule of law. To varying but often alarming degrees,
human rights are flagrantly abused; ethnic and other minorities suffer not only discrimination but
murderous violence; power is heavily if not regally concentrated in the executive branch; and
parties, legislators, executives and judicial systems are thoroughly corrupt. In such countries,
democracy - if we can call it that - will not become broadly valued, and thus consolidated, unless
it also becomes more liberal, transparent, and institutionalized. In these circumstances,
governing elites must be made accountable to one another and to the people, not only in theory
but in fact. And institutions must be constructed or reformed to ensure that this will happen. In
such circumstances of entrenched corruption and repression, the elites who come to govern have
a stake in the existing system - and those who favor real reform are too weak to accomplish it by
themselves. Only the mass public can generate the political pressure and power necessary to
bring about reform.
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Even where democracy is firmly consolidated and its survival not in doubt, its quality
may deteriorate and the need for adaptation and reinvoration may become increasingly manifest.
Students of democratic development should not ignore the serious problems of democratic
functioning in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan: the deeply corrosive influence of
big money in politics; the political alienation of large and in some countries growing segments
of the population; the decline of political parties as effective instruments of interest articulation
and aggregation, and the waning of popular attachment to them; the entrenchment of a culture
of entitlements that is fiscally unsustainable; the rising hostility to immigrants and outsiders. In
some of these respects, the mass public itself - in its expectations and patterns of behavior -
constitutes a major source of the problem. But when the decay of democratic institutions is
accompanied by (or even provokes) growing public disengagement from politics, democracy may
settle into a low-level equlibrium that persists until it is shaken by genuine crisis. In the absence
of such fiscal or political crisis, political leaders themselves typically cannot muster the will,
courage or power to bring about change on their own. They need the stimulus and the support
of a mobilized public.
The public - like the people - is a concept that is diffuse, and easily misused or
abused. Politicians invoke it for their own ends. Demagogues manipulate it in attempting to ride
to power. Without organization, structure, and principles, the public may not matter for
democracy, or its impact may be negative. Certainly, a politically active public is not all that
Democracy - in particular, a healthy liberal democracy - also requires a public that is
organi:eJ for democracy, socialized to its norms and values, and committed not just to its myriad
narrow interests but to larger, common, civic, ends. Such a civic public is only possible with
a vibrant civil society.
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Civil society is the realm of organi:eJ social life that is open voluntary self-generating
at least partially self-supporting autonomous from the state anJ bounJ by a legal orJer or set
of shareJ rules. It is distinct from "society" in general in that it involves citizens acting
collectively in a public sphere to express their interests, passions, preferences, and ideas, to
exchange information, to achieve collective goals, to make demands on the state, to improve the
structure and functioning of the state, and to hold state officials accountable. Civil society is an
intermediary phenomenon, standing between the private sphere and the state. Thus, it excludes
individual and family life, inward-looking group activity (for example, for recreation,
entertainment, religious worship or spirituality), and the profit-making enterprise of individual
business firms. These are all dimensions of parochial society (or, in the commercial, profit-
making sphere, of economic society) that do not concern themselves with civic life and the
public realm - and yet, as we will see, they may help to generate cultural norms and patterns of
engagement that spill over into the civic realm. Similarly, civil society is distinct from political
society, which encompasses all those organized actors (in a democracy, primarily political
parties and campaign organizations) whose primarily goal is to win control of the state or at least
some position for themselves within it. Organizations and networks in civil society may form
alliances with parties, but if they become captured by parties, or hegemonic within them, they
move their primary locus of activity to political society and lose much of their ability to perform
certain unique mediating and democracy-building functions
Being essentially market-oriented, actors in civil society recogni:e the principles of state
authority anJ the rule of law, and need the protection of an institutionalized legal order to
prosper and be secure. Thus, civil society not only restricts state power but legitimates state
authority when that authority is based on the rule of law. However, when the state itself is lawless
and contemptuous of individual and group autonomy, civil society may still exist (albeit in
tentative or battered form) if its constituent elements operate by some set of shared rules (which,
for example, eschew violence and respect pluralism). This is the irreducible condition of its
"civil" dimension.

This concept ual for mulat ion dr aws fr om a number of sour ces but has been especially
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Civil society encompasses a vast array of organizations, formal and informal: These
include (1) economic (productive and commercial associations and networks); (2) cultural
(religious, ethnic, communal, and other institutions and associations that defend collective rights,
values, faiths, beliefs, and symbols); (3) informational anJ eJucational, devoted to the
production and dissemination (whether for profit or not) of public knowledge, ideas, news, and
information; (4) interest groups, which seek to advance or defend the common functional or
material interests of their members (for example, trade unions, associations of veterans and
pensioners, and professional groups); (5) Jevelopmental organizations, which pool individual
resources and talents to improve the infrastructure, institutions, and quality of life of the
community; (6) issue-orienteJ movements (for example, for environmental protection, land
reform, consumer protection, and the rights of women, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, the
disabled, and other victims of discrimination and abuse); and (7) civic groups, which seek (in

influenced by Naomi Chazan. See in par t icular his "Afr icas Democr at ic Challenge: St r engt hening
Civil Societ y and t he St at e," World Policy J ournal 9 (Spr ing 1992): 279-308. See also S. N.
Eisenst adt , Civil Societ y, in Seymour Mar t in Lipset , ed., The Encyclopedia of Democracy
(Washingt on, D.C.: Congr essional Quar t er ly, 1995), Vol. 1, pp. 240-242; Edwar d Shils, "The Vir t ue
of Civil Societ y," Government and Opposition 26, no. 1 (Wint er 1991), pp. 9-10, 15-16; Pet er Lewis,
"Polit ical Transit ion and t he Dilemma of Civil Societ y in Africa," J ournal of International Affairs 27,
no. 1 (Summer 1992), pp. 31-54; Mar cia A. Weigle and J im But t er field, "Civil Societ y in Refor ming
Communist Regimes: The Logic of Emer gence," Comparative Politics 25 (Oct ober 1992): 3-4; and
Philippe C. Schmit t er, Civil Societ y East and West , in Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plat t ner, Yun-han
Chu, and Hung-mao Tien, Consolidating the Third Wave Democracies: Themes and Perspectives
(Balt imor e: J ohns Hopkins Univer sit y Pr ess, 1997), pp. 240-262. (The lat t er essay has cir culat ed in
sever al pr evious dr aft s, including "Some Pr oposit ions about Civil Societ y and t he Consolidat ion of
Democr acy," paper pr esent ed t o t he Confer ence on "Reconfigur ing St at e and Societ y," Univer sit y of
Califor nia, Ber keley, 22-23 Apr il 1993.)
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nonpartisan fashion) to improve the political system and make it more democratic (for example,
working for human rights, voter education and mobilization, election monitoring, and exposure
and reform of corrupt practices).
In addition, civil society encompasses "the ideological marketplace," the flow of
information and ideas, including those which evaluate and critique the state. This includes not
only independent mass media but the broader field of autonomous cultural and intellectual
activity - universities, think tanks, publishing houses, theaters, film makers, and artistic
performances and networks.
From the above, it should be clear that civil society is not some mere residual category,
synonymous with "society" or with everything that is not the state or the formal political system.
One of the most misleading and even trivializiing conceptualizations of civil society is to treat
it as simply organizations that are independent of the state. Beyond being voluntary, self-
generating, autonomous, and rule-abiding, civil society organizations are distinct from other
groups in society in several respects.
First, to reiterate, civil society is concerned with public rather than private ends. It is
distinct from parochial society. And it is accessible to citizens and open to public deliberation
- not embedded in exclusive, secretive, or corporate settings.
Second, civil society relates to the state in some way but does not seek to win control
over or position within the state; it does not seek to govern the polity as a whole.
civil society actors pursue from the state concessions, benefits, policy changes, institutional
reforms, relief, redress, justice, and accountability to their scrutiny. Organizations, movements,
and networks that seek to displace ruling authorities from power, to change the nature of the state
- and in particular, to democratize it - remain part of civil society if their goal is to reform the
structure of power rather than to take power themselves as organizations. Thus, a liberation party

Eisenst adt , Civil Societ y, p. 240.
To a consider able degr ee, t his is what Schmit t er means by nonusur pat ion in his Civil
Societ y East and West , p. 240.
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like the Indian National Congress in pre-independence India or the African National Congress
of South Africa is acting essentially in political society; it seeks not only a democratic transition
but control of the state. Supporting movements and allied organizations, however, like the
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), spring from civil society.
A third distinguishing feature of civil society is that it encompasses pluralism and
diversity. To the extent that an organization - such as a religious fundamentalist, ethnic
chauvinist, revolutionary or millenarian movement - seeks to monopolize a functional or political
space in society, crowding out all competitors while claiming that it represents the only legitimate
path, it contradicts the pluralistic and market-oriented nature of civil society.
Related to this is
a fourth distinction, partiality, in the sense that no group in civil society seeks to represent the
whole of a persons or a communitys interests. Rather different groups represent or encompass
different aspects of interest.
This partiality is crucial to generating one of the important
consequences of a truly civil society: the profusion of different organizations and, for
individuals, multiple organizational ties that cross-cut and complicate existing cleavages and
generate moderating cross-pressures on individual preferences, attitudes, and beliefs. By
contrast, parties or organizations of integration seek to encapsulate their members within a
totalistic environment that isolates them from alternative views and ties, inculcates a rigid,
comprehensive ideological or philosophical belief system, and demands total obedience. As

Of cour se, cor por at ist syst ems of int er est r epr esent at ion ar e dist inct ive in t hat t hey
deliber at ely gr ant monopolies of int er est r epr esent at ion t o peak associat ions (usually of labor and
capit al) t hat r epr esent all t he const it uent or ganizat ions and act or s wit hin par t icular sect or s of t he
economy. If t hese ar r angement s ar e ar r ived at t hr ough a democr at ic pr ocess, t hen t he r esult ing
act or s const it ut e par t of civil societ y. The nat ur e of t his pr ocess, and t he degr ee t o which int er est
or ganizat ions wit h such br oad encompassing scope (in Schmit t er s t er m) ar e never t heless
aut onomous fr om t he st at e, const it ut es t he key dist inct ion bet ween democrat ic (societ al) corporat ism
and aut hor it ar ian (st at e) cor por at ism. Philippe C. Schmit t er goes so far as t o ar gue t hat such
democr at ic cor por at ist or ganizat ions - wit h st r at egic capacit y and encompassing scope, play a mor e
significant r ole in t he consolidat ion of democr acy t han a gr eat mult iplicit y of nar r owly specialized
and over lapping or ganizat ions, because t he lat t er plur alist st r uct ur es weaken t he r ole of int er est
int er mediar ies. At a minimum, his t heor et ical ar gument r emains t o be demonst r at ed (and I myself
am dubious). However , t he key point is t hat democr at ic cor por at ist st r uct ur es do not violat e t he
pr inciples of civil society when t heir funct ional monopoly is democrat ically established, subject t o law,
and embedded in a lar ger st r uct ur e of democr at ic bar gaining and or ganizat ional fr eedom. For his
lat est per spect ive, see his Civil Societ y East and West , pp. 246-247.
Chazan, "Afr ica's Democr at ic Challenge,", pp. 288-289; Pet er Lewis, "Polit ical Tr ansit ion
and t he Dilemma of Civil Societ y in Afr ica," pp. 35-36.
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Lipset has argued, following the work of Sigmund Neumann, such totalistic parties or
movements weaken democracy and, I would argue, are fundamentally uncivil, while more
pluralistic or at least limited organizations strengthen democracy.

Seymour Mar t in Lipset , Political Man: The S ocial Bases of Democracy, 2nd ed. (Balt imore:
J ohns Hopkins Univer sit y Pr ess, 1981), pp. 74-75.
Confusion about the boundaries of civil society and the location of particular actors
derives in part from the multiple and shifting nature of organizational goals. A religious
congregation or establishment - a church or mosque or synagogue - may mainly function to cater
to the spiritual needs of its members in parochial society. But when it becomes engaged in
efforts to fight poverty, crime, and drug addiction, to improve human capital and organize efforts
for community self-improvement, or to lobby legislatures (or join constitutional cases) about
public policies on abortion, sexuality, poverty, human rights, the legal treatment of religion, or
a myriad of other issues, then the religious institution is acting in civil society. Many times,
organizations based in one sphere temporarily cross the boundary into another. Trade unions
constitute themselves as virtual campaign organizations for particular candidates or parties at
election times. The church throws its leadership, resources, and moral authority into a broad
national movement for democratic change - as has occurred to varying degrees in Brazil, Chile,
Nicaragua, the Philippines, South Korea, Poland, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, and elsewhere
during the third wave. Recreational organizations may become politicized into civic action - for
example, if the birds they watch or the trails they hike become threatened by pollution or business
development. Frequently, organizations and networks pursue multifaceted agendas that straddle
the boundary between parochial and civil society, or between civil and political society, or even
between all three sectors (as with religious organizations, when religion gets politicized).
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The balance of organizational activities tells us something about the character of a
political system. At the level of individual belief and behavior, Almond and Verba theorize that
stable democracy requires a mixed political culture in which the participant orientation - to
vote and demonstrate and lobby and organize on the basis of rational interests - is tempered by
a subject orientation of loyalty to the political community and constitutional order and by a
parochial orientation that involves the individual in more traditional or at least private and non-
political concerns, and that expects nothing from the political system.
As a result of this mix,
they argue, citizens do not participate incessantly and with equal intensity on all issues. Rather,
they exercise a reserve of influence with a disposition to political activity that is intermittent
and potential. It is precisely the comparative infrequency of political participation, its relative
lack of importance for the [typical] individual, and the objective weakness of the average citizen
that allow governmental elites to act and preserve a healthy balance between conflict and
Democratic governability is facilitated on the one hand and democratic
responsiveness and accountability on the other by cycles of citizen involvement, elite response,
and citizen withdrawal.
Although their theory has been criticized as conservative in its structural-functional
emphasis on system maintenance, it can comprehend change and reform as well as stability. And
it has a parallel at the broader level of organization life. Democracy differs in form across
countries: some are more structured and dominated by elites, some more pluralistic, competitive
and conflictual. But in every democracy, effective governance requires some restraint in the
number and intensity of demands upon the state, and in the intensity with which conflicting
parties and organizations press incompatible public policy agendas. When organizations that are
primarily (or in theory) parochial become drawn into repeated and intense public policy debates,
and when organizations in civil society become intensely and enduringly politicized along
partisan lines of division, society may polarize, as the cross-cutting bonds of solidarity and

Gabr iel A. Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy
in Five Nations (Bost on: Lit t le, Br own & Company, 1965), pp. 16-30.
Ibid, pp. 346-347.
Ibid, p. 350.
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civility dissolve. Such polarization may be creative and advantageous for social justice and
democracy at moments of political crisis, bringing the downfall of an authoritarian regime, the
reform of a decadent and occluded democratic system, the permanent expansion of participation
and enlargement of civil liberties, the impeachment and removal of a corrupt president from
office, the cancellation of a fraudulent election. But democracy cannot function indefinitely on
the basis of crisis, polarization, and pervasive civic and political mobilization by every type of
organization imaginable. Eventually, democratic governability requires a return to normality -
not to apathy or withdrawal, but to a boundary between civic and parochial society.
This raises a fifth intriguing and theoretically rich distinction, between civil society and
what Robert Putnam calls a civic community. Putnams model of the civic community has
profound implications for the quality and consolidation of democracy, and for the bridging of the
literatures on political culture and civil society. The essential building block of this bridge is the
concept of social capital, the features of social organization and of culture that can improve
the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions. Both for economic development
and effective democracy, voluntary cooperation - to pool resources, to engage in exchange, to
organize for common ends - is crucial. Voluntary cooperation is greatly facilitated by
interpersonal trust and norms of reciprocity, and these cultural orientations in turn are fostered
by (but also deepen) networks of civic engagement, in which citizens are drawn together as
equals in intense horizontal interaction.
For Putnam, the key to constructing a civic
community is not whether an organization has an explicitly civic (public) or political versus
private purpose. Mutual aid organizations (for example, rotating credit associations),
neighborhood associations, choral societies, cooperatives, sports clubs, and mass-based political

Robert Put nam, wit h Robert Leonar di and Raffaella Y. Nanet t i, Making Democracy Work:
Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Pr incet on: Pr incet on Univer sit y Pr ess, 1993), quot ed fr om pp. 167
and 173.
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parties may all be constituent elements of a civic community. The key is whether associational
life is structured horizontally so as to generate trust, cooperation, free flows of communication,
and generalized, robust norms of reciprocity.
Viewed in this way, civic community is both a broader and narrower concept than civil
society: broader in that it encompasses all manner of associations (parochial included), narrower
in that it includes only associations structured horizontally around ties that are more or less
mutual, cooperative, symmetrical, and trusting. By contrast, there are many organizations active
in democratic civil societies - even civic organizations whose goal is to reform the polity or
advocate human rights - that are not civic in Putnams sense. Instead, of bringing together
people as trusting equals cooperating in relations of generalized reciprocity and mutual benefit
and respect, these organizations tend to reproduce within themselves hierarchical cultural
tendencies of the wider society: vertical structures of authority and flows of information,
asymmetrical patterns of exchange between patron and clients, scant horizontal ties among the
general membership, and weak levels of trust (at best). To the extent that hierarchy and suspicion
rule the organization, cooperation becomes difficult, both among members of the organization
and between it and other organizations. The organization then becomes dependent on a leader
or ruling clique, and may manifest a debilitating and all-too-apparent contradiction between its
internal style of governance and the goals its professes to seek for the polity. As a result, the
organization cannot widen its base, or it loses support and credibility in society, or it descends
into fractious and internecine conflict with similar organizations professing similar ends and
characterized by similar patterns of hierarchical, unaccountable internal leadership. In the most
extreme cases, civil society organizations may become hobbled and hollowed out by the
personalistic, dependent, coercive, and exploitative authority relations of the uncivic
community, and its consequent vulnerability to defection, distrust, shirking, exploitation,
isolation, disorder, and stagnation.
Putnams notion of civicness - of reciprocity, cooperation, and distrust, versus
hierarchy, fragmentation, and endemic suspicion - is not simply a tidy and appealing theoretical

Ibid, p. 177.
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construct, or a regress into cultural determinism. It is a powerful perspective for understanding
why organizations that may be considered (and certainly consider themselves) part of civil society
nevertheless fail to function effectively to develop democracy in the ways I describe below. The
problem has been particularly severe in many African countries, where even many human rights
organizations have been unable to build broad anti-authoritarian fronts because of paralyzing
divisions that keep different organizations from coalescing with one another, while old
organizations split and divide around leadership disputes and new organizations take shape
(hierarchically) around alternative leaders. To some extent, these types of divisions account for
the weakness of the pro-democracy civic organizations in Nigeria, particularly since the
annulment of the (largely successful and democratic) June 1993 presidential elections and the
abortion of the democratic transition that the military had pledged to complete that year. Indeed,
most African dictators who have managed to withstand the winds of democratic change in the
early 1990s have done so in part by using money and manipulating ethnicity to entrench the
uncivic tendencies that civil society organizations have inherited from the larger society, and thus
to foment suspicion, division, cooptation, and defection.
The distinction between civic community and civil society underscores a more general
theoretical caveat and caution. If civil society is to be a theoretically useful construct for studying
democratic development, it is important to avoid the tautology that equates it with everything that
is democratic, noble, decent, and good. I have argued that civil society must be refined to a
degree that distinguishes it from the much wider and more general arena of (independent)
associational life. But an association may be more or less autonomous from the state, voluntary,
self-generating, and respectful of the letter of the law, and still be highly undemocratic,
paternalistic, and particularistic in its internal structure and norms, and distrustful, unreliable,
even domineering, exploitative, and cynical in its dealings with other organizations and the state
and society more broadly. To the extent that such organizations characterize civil society, it will
be less effective and liberal - and so will be democracy. Alternatively, to the extent that civil
society is characterized instead by civic norms and structures that induce trust and cooperation,
this probably reflects a wider pattern that is fostered and nurtured throughout parochial society
as well. In this sense, Putnam (like Tocqueville) sensitizes us to the importance of the nature and
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intensity of associational life in general - of social capital - as a crucial cultural foundation of
liberal democracy.
From the above it is clear that not all associations, and not even all associations in civil
society, have the same potential to foster and deepen democracy. Certain variable features of
civil society generally and individual organizations are important to consider.
Putting Putnams concerns for civicness somewhat differently, an important issue
concerns how (indeed whether) an organization formally governs its own internal affairs. To
what extent does it practice democratic principles of constitutionalism, transparency,
accountability, participation, deliberation, representation, and rotation of leaders in the way it
makes decisions and allocates its own power and resources? An organization may be able to
represent group interests, check the power of the state, and perform many other democratic
functions I describe below even if it is not internally democratic.
But if, in its own patterns of
governance, it perpetuates norms that penalize dissent, exalt the leader over the group, and cloak
the exercise of power, one thing it will not do is build a culture of democracy. If civil society
organizations are to function as "large free schools" for democracy, they must function
democratically in their internal processes of decision-making and leadership selection. And they

This was t he finding of an assessment of int er nat ional donor support for civil societ y, as an
appr oach t o assist ing democr at izat ion in less developed count r ies. Based on int ensive count r y
assessment s of pr ograms in Bangladesh, Chile, El Salvador, Kenya, and Thailand, and sponsored by
t he U.S. Agency for Int er nat ional Development , t he st udy found: No mor e t han a handful of all t he
CSOs [civil societ y or ganizat ions] obser ved acr oss t he five count r ies exhibit ed any ser ious int er nal
democr acy, but t his did not appear t o inhibit t heir effect iveness at moving democr acy for war d and
playing democr at ic polit ics. Nondemocr at ic CSOs can gener at e democr at ic int er est compet it ion and
r esponsiveness t o t he needs of var ious communit ies if t her e is plur alism and space for differ ent
int er est s t o or ganize and be hear d. The st udy does not appear t o have examined, however , t he
longer -t er m implicat ions for democr at ic cult ur e change and social capit al accumulat ion of aut ocr at ic
ver sus democr at ic pat t er ns of gover nance wit hin or ganizat ions. Har r y Blair , Civil Societ y and
Building Democr acy: Lessons fr om Int er nat ional Donor Exper ience. Paper pr esent ed t o t he 1995
Meet ing of t he Amer ican Polit ical Science Associat ion, Chicago, August 31-Sept ember 3, 1996, p. 14.
- 1 6 -
should encourage and institutionalize multiple avenues for active participation among the
members. The more their own organizational practices are based on political equality, reciprocal
communication, mutual respect, and the rule of law, the more civil society organizations will
socialize members into these democratic norms - and the more they will generate the social trust,
tolerance, cooperativeness, and civic competence that undergird a vibrant and liberal

I offer t his as a t heor et ical obser vat ion which confor ms wit h what I have obser ved
anecdot ally in developing count r ies, r at her t han as a pr oposit ion t hat has t he suppor t of syst emat ic
empirical evidence. Almond and Verba do pr esent ext ensive evidence t hat membership in volunt ary
associat ions pr omot es gr eat er social t r ust , polit ical par t icipat ion, polit ical knowledge, and polit ical
efficacy (subjective civic compet ence). And membership in a politically oriented organizat ion breeds
polit ical opinions, part icipat ion, and self-confidence even somewhat more readily. (See t heir Chapt er
10, Or ganizat ional Member ship and Civic Compet ence of t he 1965 edit ion of The Civic Culture.)
Put nam, t oo, finds a cor r elat ion bet ween associat ional act ivit y and civic cult ur e, alt hough it is
somewhat mor e infer ent ial. The pr evalence of associat ions is one of four component s of his Civic
Communit y Index (along wit h newspaper r eader ship and vot er t ur nout in r efer endums), and elit e
and mass at t it udes and values appear mar kedly mor e civic (mor e t r ust ing, efficacious, law-abiding,
cooperat ive, and polit ically sat isfied) in t he regions t hat are st ruct urally and behaviorally more civic.
(Making Democracy Work, pp. 91-115.) What does not seem t o exist is any dir ect , for mal t est of
whet her member s of associat ions t hat ar e mor e democr at ically gover ned manifest mor e democr at ic
- 1 7 -

nor ms and values t han member s of associat ions t hat ar e mor e hier ar chically and ar bit r ar ily
gover ned. The one infer ence t hat can be dr awn comes again fr om The Civic Culture (pp. 260-261):
member s who have held an official position in t heir organization ar e much more likely t o have a sense
of polit ical efficacy t han passive member s (and passive member s mor e t han non-member s). To t he
ext ent t hat democr at ic or ganizat ions r ot at e individuals in and out of offices mor e, t hey will advance
t his element of democrat ic cult ur e, and one may surmise, other s as well. Their dat a do show t he U.S.
sample as having by far t he highest pr opor t ions of t ot al cit izens and of or ganizat ional member s who
have held an office. Mor e explicit r esear ch (bot h sur vey r esear ch and or ganizat ional case st udies)
on how t he int er nal st r uct ur e of or ganizat ional life affect s t he development of polit ical nor ms and
values should be a high pr ior it y.
- 1 8 -
A second variable concerns the goals and methods of groups in civil society, especially
organized associations. The chances to develop stable democracy improve significantly if a
societys array of organizations and movements does not contain maximalist, uncompromising
interest groups, or groups with undemocratic goals and methods. To the extent that a group seeks
to conquer the state or other competitors, or rejects the rule of law and the authority of the
democratic state, it is not a component of civil society at all, but it may nevertheless do much
damage to democratic aspirations. Powerful, militant interest groups pull parties toward populist
and extreme political promises, polarizing the party system, and are more likely to bring down
state repression that may have a broad and indiscriminate character, weakening or radicalizing
more democratic elements of civil society. Even within civil society, some groups are more
inclined to cooperation and compromise than others. This returns us to Putnams variable of
A third, feature of civil society is its level of organizational institutionalization. As with
political parties, institutionalized interest groups contribute to the stability, predictability, and
governability of a democratic regime. Where interests are organized in a structured, stable
manner, bargaining and the growth of cooperative networks are facilitated. Social forces do not
face the continual cost of setting up new structures. And if the organization expects to continue
to operate in the society over a sustained period of time, its leaders will have more reason to be
accountable and responsive to the constituency, and may take a longer-range view of the group's
interests and policy goals, rather than seeking to maximize short-term benefits in an
uncompromising manner. Institutionalization has a strong affinity with constitutionalism. It
involves established procedures that are widely and reliably known and regularly practiced, as
opposed to personalized, arbitrary, and unpredictable modes of operation.
As with the structures and organizations in political society and the state, so with civil
society we can measure the institutionalization of civil society actors with Huntingtons four
criteria of autonomy, adaptability, coherence, and complexity.
Autonomy must insulate a civil
society actor from dominance or control not only by the state but by an individual leader,

Samuel P. Hunt ingt on, Political Order in Changing S ocieties (New Haven: Yale Universit y
Pr ess, 1968), pp. 12-24.
- 1 9 -
founder, or ruling clique. To the extent that the purpose and functioning of the organization are
subverted by other social or political actors, hijacked to their agendas, or subordinated to the
whims and interests of a personalized ruler or a particular faction, a civil society organizations
effectiveness is undermined, its potential base of support is narrowed (and so, again, is its ability
to develop a democratic culture). This relates also to the criterion of coherence. A civil society
organization will be most effective and will best contribute to the development of democracy
when it has a coherent purpose, structure, and organizational identity broadly shared among its
members. Coherence requires consensus about the mission of the organization, its functional
boundaries, and its procedures for resolving disputes. Here again we see a value to internal
democracy: consensus about goals, priorities, projects, and methods is more likely to be broad
and sustainable if it emerges organically from a deliberative process and if it is transparent and
codified in a constitutional framework.
Complexity involves elaboration of functions and sub-units, and this can potentially
diminish coherence. But it need not negate it. A key element of complexity for civil society
organizations at the national level is vertical depth: the extent to which they are able to organize
provincial and local chapters that pursue the same goals at lower levels of public life. This is
important not only for interest groups - where trade unions and chambers of commerce have long
perceived the need to be organized in a wide range of sectors and at more local levels of authority
- but with civic organizations of various kinds. The most effective civic education, human
rights, environmental, and democratic reform organizations in developing democracies have
established local chapters and field offices in many or most of the states or provinces of their
countries. This dispersed presence broadens the membership base of the organization, increases
active participation in its affairs, and enables it to pursue a more complex policy agenda. This
is especially vital where power is at least somewhat decentralized, and government decisions or
activities bearing on the organizations goals are made at the provincial and local levels.
Decentralized structures of national civil society organizations also build social capital by
bringing citizens together in face-to-face interaction concerning the problems of their immediate
- 2 0 -
Complexity can also emerge, from the bottom up, through the growth of local
organizations into more broad-based national structures, or it can come through the horizontal
aggregation of many distinct organizations that share underlying interests or a common purpose
and functional identity. Both of these processes have characterized the institutionalization of
Korean civil society in the past decade. South Koreas most important civic organization, the
Citizens Coalition for Economic Justice (CCEJ), was established by reformers in the Seoul
metropolitan area, then initiated other local and regional branch organizations, and only
somewhat later did it formally come together as a national-level association. And national-level
associations in Korea have established (on their own initiative and control, not that of the state)
peak associations, more in the nature of loose confederations, to coordinate their sectoral
activities and formulate common strategies. In 1995, the Korea Association of Civic
Organizations was founded with the participation of 54 national organizations, including eight
civic organizations.

Kyoung-Ryung Seong, Civil Societ y and Democr at ic Consolidat ion in Kor ea, 1987-1996:
Gr eat Achievement s and Remaining Pr oblems, in Lar r y Diamond and Byung-Kook Kim, eds.,
Consolidating Korean Democracy, fort hcoming. Seong not es t hat horizont al cooper at ion among civil
societ y or ganizat ions also occur s mor e infor mally and episodically at t he local level, as when t he
CCEJ local br anch may ally wit h it s local count er par t of t he Nat ional Coalit ion for Envir onment al
Movement and pur ely local act ivist s t o pr ot est pollut ion or mediat e a conflict bet ween villages over
t he locat ion of a wast e-disposal sit e. As at t he level of individual cit izens, volunt ar y, hor izont al
cooper at ion bet ween associat ions gener at es social capit al and a r icher , mor e vibr ant civil societ y.
- 2 1 -
Finally, civil society organizations become institutionalized when they learn to adapt their
missions, functions, and structures to an altered political and social context, new imperatives, and
different opportunities. This, too, overlaps with other criteria, in particular complexity.
Adaptation also involves elaborating the functional agenda of the organization and deepening its
local sub-structures. This adaptation has been vividly evidenced in the growth of election
monitoring organizations beyond their original mission of ensuring free and fair elections, forged
in the crucible of tense and uncertain transitions from authoritarian rule. Such highly successful
groups as the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) in the Philippines,
the Crusade for Civic Participation in Chile (which later evolved into PARTICIPA), the
Bulgarian Association for Fair Elections (BAFECR), the Paraguayan organization SAKA (a
Guarani word for transparency), and the Civic Alliance in Mexico have moved beyond their
original urgent purpose of educating voters and mobilizing volunteer pollwatchers in crucial
transitional or founding elections. While continuing their election monitoring work, they have
also broadened the scope of their activity (either themselves or by spawning new, affiliated civic
organizations) to encompass more comprehensive programs to educate, inform, and empower
citizens, to foster and mediate debate on public issues, to train candidates and local government
officials, to advocate institutional reforms to improve democracy and transparency, to promote
dialogue between citizens and public officials, and to monitor the performance of elected
Similarly, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) has dramatically
expanded from its focus on voter education and general civic education before the April 1994
founding elections in South Africa to undertake a much broader range of activities, including a
Parliamentary Information and Monitoring Service, a Budget Information Service, and a Public
Opinion Service that collects, analyzes, and disseminates public opinion survey data on current

Neil Nevit t e and Sant iago Cant on, Ret hinking Elect ion Obser vat ion, J ournal of
Democracy 8, no. 3 (J uly 1997, for t hcoming). See also t he following fir st -per son account s of
or ganizat ional evolut ion beyond an init ial focus on founding elect ions: Mara Rosa de Mart ini, Civil
Part icipat ion in t he Argent ine Democrat ic Process, pp. 29-52, Det te Pascual, Building a Democrat ic
Cult ur e in t he Philippines, pp. 53-72, and Mnica J imnez de Barr os, Mobilizing for Democr acy in
Chile: The Cr usade for Cit izen Par t icipat ion and Beyond, in Lar r y Diamond, ed., The Democratic
Revolution: S truggles for Freedom and Pluralism in the Developing World (New Yor k: Fr eedom
House, 1992). In Chile, as descr ibed below, PARTICIPA, t he immediat e successor t o t he Cr usade,
event ually t ook on a much wider r ange of social funct ions, as descr ibed lat er in t his paper .
NAMFREL did not in it self move beyond elect ion monit or ing, but many of it s act ivist s st ar t ed new
kinds of civic or ganizat ions, as Pascual descr ibes.
- 2 2 -
public issues and perceptions of democratic performance. In this way, as it becomes more
functionally complex and institutionalized, IDASA is not only growing in resources, staff,
influence, and connectedness, it is also working on a greater variety of fronts, with growing
technical sophistication, to improve the functioning of democratic institutions.
As a country moves from the exigencies and drama of a transition struggle to the more
prosaic challenges of governance, incorporation, enculturation, and service delivery, civil society
organizations must often evolve and adapt if they are to remain relevant and viable. The course
of adaptation, however, is not necessarily an unmixed blessing, as it may risk taking the
organization far from its original mission while compromising its autonomy from the state. This
is one of several dilemmas of civil society I will consider in conclusion.

Infor mat ion on t hese ongoing act ivit ies is available fr om IDASAs r egular publicat ions,
Parliamentary Whip, Budget Watch, and Public Opinion S ervice Reports.
- 2 3 -
A fourth feature of civil society is its variety or pluralism. Of course, some degree of
pluralism is necessary by definition for civil society; no organization that is civil can claim to
represent all the interests of its members. Still, within various sectors and issue arenas, there is
an obvious tension between strength of combined numbers and the vitality of diversity. On the
one hand, to the extent that advocates of particular interests unify into a single organization or
confederation possessing what Schmitter has called strategic capacity (to define and sustain
a course of action independent of immediate member preferences, as well as outside pressures)
and encompassing scope (in the domain of interests represented), they will be more powerful
actors, and Schmitter believes, will produce more stable partial regimes of interest mediation.
Indeed, Schmitter argues that civil societ y cont r ibut es most posit ively t o democr at ic
consolidat ion not in a plur alist syst em - wher e a gr eat mult iplicit y of nar r owly
specialized and over lapping or ganizat ions emer ge wit h close dependencies upon
t heir member s or int er locut or s - but in cor por at ist syst ems, in which int er est
associat ions wit h monopolist ic scope in specific int er est domains ar e nat ionally
focused and hier ar chically coor dinat ed int o sole peak associat ions wit h clear
capacit ies for class gover nance.
No doubt , cor porat ist associat ions wit h br oader
member ships and a r epr esent at ional monopoly make for st r onger int er est
int er mediar ies, and mor e st able bar gaining as well. But t hey also t end t o be less
democr at ic in t heir int er nal gover nance. Befor e long, aut onomy fr om member
pr efer ences not only opens wider space for bar gaining but also act ivat es Michels
ir on law of oligar chy - t he t endency of or ganizat ional leader s t o ent r ench
t hemselves or t heir fact ion indefinit ely in or ganizat ional power and become
unaccount able t o t heir member s.
Apart fr om polit ical par t ies, t r ade unions have
been par t icular ly vulner able t o t his t endency (given t he especially lar ge gap
bet ween t he t ime and r esour ces of t heir members and t hose of t he leader s), and t he

Schmit t er , Civil Societ y East and West , pp. 246-247, 249.
Rober t Michels, Political Parties: A S ociological S tudy of the Oligarchical Tendencies of
Modern Democracy (Glencoe, Il: Fr ee Pr ess, 1949). For mal or ganizat ion, Michels lament ed,
inevit ably gives birt h t o t he dominion of t he elect ed over t he elect ors.... Who says or ganizat ion says
oligar chy (p.401).
- 2 4 -
lar ger and mor e bur eaucr at ic t he scale of t he or ganizat ion t he mor e vulner able it
is t o an oligar chy of power at t he t op.
The value of cor por at ism for democr at ic
consolidat ion is also r ender ed dubious by t he fiscal st r ains and bar r ier s t o global
compet it iveness such bar gaining r elat ions have imposed on Eur opean economies,
as a r esult of t he benefit s t hat have been ext r act ed by labor and capit al.
Extreme pluralism, in which a great multiplicity of groups compete to represent the same
narrow interests, can produce disempowering fragmentation. But that is not the only alternative
to corporatism. Rather, having within each issue arena or interest sector at least some different
organizational alternatives may generate greater pressure for organizations to be responsive and
accountable to their constituencies, because those constituencies have other options to which they
can turn for representation. In this sense, some degree of competition between organizations may
be healthy, and conducive to competition within organizations as well. To the extent that the
norms and structures of a civic community emerge, such pluralism need not obstruct the ability
of these different organizations to coalesce and cooperate for common ends. Moreover,
pluralism acts as an insurance policy for any given interest sector, diffusing risk. If one
organization suffers decline or confronts extinction as a result of leadership mismanagement or
abuse, cooptation, or repression, this does not mean the end of effective organized representation
for the interest.

Seymour Mar tin Lipset, Mar tin A. Tr ow, and J ames S. Coleman, Union Democracy (Garden
Cit y, NY: Anchor Books, 1962).
Finally, civil society serves democracy best when it is dense in the sheer number of
associations. The greater the density of associational life, the more memberships the average
citizen is likely to have, and the wider the range of societal interests and activities that will find
organizational expression. The more associations in civil society, the more likely that
associations will develop specialized agendas and purposes that do not seek to swallow the lives
of their members in one all-compassing organizational framework. More generally, as
- 2 5 -
Tocqueville so trenchantly recognized with respect to democracy in America, the disposition to
form and join organizations seems to be a habit, a core feature of political culture. The density
of voluntary associational life has three important spillover effects. First, the more associations
of all kinds - including those in parochial society - the more people develop the trust, confidence,
and skill to cooperate and coalesce, to form new associations, when new needs, exigencies, and
interests arise. For this reason, Putnam treats the density of associational life as a key indicator
of a civic community and the formation of social capital. This leads to the second spillover:
the denser a countrys associational life, the more democratic the political culture is likely to be
in generating political knowledge, interest, efficacy, trust, and tolerance. Third, one reason why
tolerance is greater in densely populated civil societies is because multiple memberships reflect
and reinforce cross-cutting patterns of cleavage that expose citizens to a wider array of interests,
backgrounds, and perspectives.
Civil society advances democracy in two generic ways: by helping to generate a transition
from authoritarian rule to (at least) electoral democracy, and by deepening and consolidating
democracy once it is established. Because of the longstanding tendency in the scholarly literature
(noted at the beginning of this essay) to emphasize the primary role of elites in leading, crafting,
negotiating (or imposing) democratic transitions, it is important to stress how crucial has been
the role of the public - organized and mobilized through civil society - in many prominent
cases of democratization during the third wave.
With the Southern European and Latin American transitions of the 1970s and early 1980s
in mind, Guillermo ODonnell and Philippe Schmitter advance a model based on the sweeping
assertion that there is no transition whose beginning is not the consequence - direct or indirect
- of important divisions within the authoritarian regime itself, principally along the fluctuating
- 2 6 -
cleavage between hard-liners and soft-liners.
Once something has happened along these
lines - once the soft-liners in the regime have sufficiently prevailed to widen the space for
independent political expression and activity - then citizenship is revived, civil society is
resurrected, and a general mobilization is likely to occur, or even to snowball into a popular
upsurge that pushes the transition further than it otherwise would have gone.

ODonnell and Schmit t er , Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions
about Uncertain Democracies, p. 19.
Ibid, chapt er 5. The quot es ar e fr om pp. 48, 54, and 56.
- 2 7 -
Although this sequential model has generally been considered valid for the Southern
European and Latin American transitions, it is now being questioned even for those foundational
cases. In Spain, Peru, and Argentina, Collier and Mahoney argue that protests and strikes led by
trade unions were crucial in destabilizing authoritarianism and opening the way for
democratization, fostering divisions among authoritarian incumbents and pressing them to
surrender power in a defensive extrication when they had not yet formulated a reform
And where, as in Uruguay and Brazil, the transition games more closely
approximated the standard model of elite initiation and strategic interactions between
authoritarian and democratic party elites, mass popular opposition in general and labor protest
in particular played a crucial role in undermining the legitimation projects of the two regimes
and their attempts to control and limit the party system.

Ruth Berins Collier and J ames Mahoney, Adding Collect ive Act ors to Collective Out comes:
Labor and Recent Democr at izat ion in Sout h Amer ica and Sout her n Eur ope, Comparative Politics
29, no. 3 (Apr il 1997): 287. Their int er pr et at ion of t he Spanish case in par t icular challenges t he
convent ional t heor et ical int er pr et at ion, but t hey not e t hat even befor e t he deat h of Fr anco, labor
pr ot est produced a severe challenge to the regime and altered the t erms of elit e political calculat ions
(p. 288). Mor eover , t heir ar gument s accor d wit h hist or ical evidence fr om ear lier per iods and ot her
cases t hat emphasize t he r ole of or ganized labor (and ot her mass-based collect ive act or s) in
gener at ing and deepening democr at izat ion. See Diet r ich Rueschemeyer , Evelyne Huber St ephens,
and J ohn D. St ephens, Capitalist Development and Democracy (Chicago: Univer sit y of Chicago Pr ess,
Ibid, p. 295.
- 2 8 -
In fact, the elite-centered model of democratic transitions poorly comprehends the
dynamics of many cases around the world during the third wave, where either the sequence is
turned on its head - and it is the mobilization and then upsurge of civil society which generates
divisions in the ruling regime - or where the causal dynamics are more intricate and subtle, with
the growth in civil society pluralism, autonomy, and resistance advancing incrementally and
interactively with political liberalization from above and with (shifting or intermittent) regime
divisions over the pace of that liberalization. In particular, where authoritarian rule has tended
to be highly personalistic and decadent - to the point of what Linz calls sultanistic
and others
neopatrimonial - the real impetus for democratic change tends to originate outside the regime
in the mobilization of civil society. This has been the case in much of Africa. Where rapid
economic development has ineluctably generated a more complex class structure and a
diversified associational life, pressure from below has functioned somewhat independently to
induce or widen political opening from above in a reciprocal or dialectical process. Thus,
although Taiwan is often viewed as a paradigmatic case of controlled political opening from
above by a strong and self-confident ruling party, the social movements and protests of the 1980s
translated long-suppressed popular discontent into ardent social forces that eroded the
effectiveness of one-party rule and softened the resolve of the state elite to retain the authoritarian
In a number of prominent cases civil society has played a crucial role, if not the leading
role, in producing a transition to democracy. It was only the courageous mobilization of

J uan J . Linz, Tot alit ar ian and Aut hor it ar ian Regimes, in Fr ed I. Gr eenst ein and Nelson
W. Polsby, eds., Handbook of Political S cience (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1975) vol. 3, pp. 175-
Yun-han Chu, Crafting Democratization in Taiwan (Taipei: Inst it ut e for Nat ional Policy
Resear ch, 1992), pp. 99.
- 2 9 -
hundreds of thousands of citizens, surging into the streets to reclaim their stolen election, that
enabled the rebellion of military reformers to survive in the Philippines and forced Ferdinand
Marcos from power in what came to be known as the Miracle at Edsa. If civil society had not
organized massively through the umbrella organization, NAMFREL, to monitor those 1986
presidential elections, they would never have been able to document to the world Marcoss
massive electoral fraud, and thus to rally U.S. and other international support to their cause.
A year later, in South Korea, enormous student and worker demonstrations combined
with the more sober pressure of middle-class business and professional groups and opposition
politicians to force the authoritarian regime to yield to demands for true democratic change
(signified by direct election of the president).
The petition campaign of early 1987 demanding
direct election - which gathered over a million signatures - can be seen as a classic moment of
civil society upsurge, in which traditionally reserved or compliant middle-class groups and
newspapers were emboldened to challenge the authoritarian regime and its propaganda.
by then authoritarian rule had been heavily stripped of legitimacy not only by its own acts of
repression but by the mobilization of a civil society coalition of unprecedented breadth, including
not only student and labor organizations but peasants, writers, journalists, academics and most
of the countrys Buddhist, Protestant, and Roman Catholic clergy and lay groups.
The breadth,
vigor, and, moral legitimacy of this mobilization, combined with the rapid expansion of Koreas
economy and international engagement (with the Olympics headed for Seoul in 1988), all raised
the costs of repression enormously. By April of 1987, in the face of massive pro-democracy
demonstrations, the authoritarian president, Chun Doo-Hwan, cut off negotiations over
democratic reform and appeared ready to launch a wave of repression. It was during those Spring
months of peak civil society mobilization, with labor unrest and student demonstrations

Hsin-Huang, Michael Hsiao and Hagen Koo, The Middle Classes and Democr at izat ion,
in Diamond, et al., eds., Consolidating the Third Wave Democracies, pp. 312-333.
David I. St einber g, The Republic of Kor ea: Plur alizing Polit ics, in Lar r y Diamond, J uan
J . Linz, and Seymour Mar t in Lipset , Politics in Developing Countries: Comparing Experiences with
Democracy (Boulder , CO: Lynne Rienner Publisher s, 1995), p. 385.
Sun-hyuk Kim, Fr om Resist ance t o Repr esent at ion: Civil Societ y in Sout h Kor ean
Democr at izat ion, Ph.D. Disser t at ion, Depar t ment of Polit ical Science, St anfor d Univer sit y, J une
1996, p. 116.
- 3 0 -
exploding in number and scale, and public protest gathering support from a growing array of
previously quiescent establishment groups, that the regime suffered its most serious split. On
June 29 Chuns close associate and hand-picked presidential successor, Roh Tae Woo, broke
ranks with the regime and embraced opposition demands for democratic reforms. This in turn
paved the way for full participation in the December 1987 founding elections of a new Korean

See St einber g, The Republic of Kor ea, pp. 385-6; and for a mor e det ailed account of t he
civil societ y dynamics during 1984-1987, Kim, Fr om Resist ance t o Repr esent at ion, Chapt er 5. The
sequence of civil societ y mobilizat ion in Kor ea also challenges t he assumpt ion of ODonnell and
Schmit t er t hat t he pr ivileged sect or s of pr ivat e indust r ialist s, mer chant s, banker s, and
landowner s, assume a cr ucial r ole in t he ear liest st ages of t he t r ansit ion, due t o t heir super ior
capacit y for act ion, t heir lesser exposure t o t he risks of repr ession, and t heir sheer visibilit y. (p. 50).
While t his was t r ue t o some considerable degr ee in t he Philippines, and in ot her sult anist ic st at es
wher e a decadent per sonal r uler and r uling par t y pr eyed upon pr ivat e capit al, in Kor ea big capit al
backed t he r egime, sat on t he sidelines, or defect ed only in the ver y final moments. As Hsiao and Koo
not e (in The Middle Classes and Democr at izat ion), in bot h Kor ea and Taiwan it was t he
pr ofessional and int ellect ual classes and pet ty bourgeoisie, not big business, t hat led, support ed and
financed t he democr at ic movement s.
- 3 1 -
In Chile, the stunning defeat of the Pinochet dictatorship in the October 1988 plebiscite
was achieved against enormous odds only by the heroic organization of a remarkably broad range
of independent organizations that united in the Crusade for Citizen Participation. This case
perhaps more closely follows the Schmitter-ODonnell model, in that there were well-known
divisions within the military regime of General Pinochet pitting his loyalists against soft-liners,
but mass mobilization emerged only with the political liberalization of the plebiscite. In any
case, it was a gamble that Pinochet did not expect to lose at the polls, and he would not have lost
it (and Chile would not have democratized when it did) without unprecedented civic unity and
mobilization. At the same time, the communist regime in Poland was crumbling as a result of
a decade of independent organization and publishing, particularly through the broad trade-union
front, Solidarity. When the walls finally came crashing down around all the Eastern European
communist regimes in 1989, many credited Soviet leader Gorbachev for refusing to intervene,
but the revolutionary ground had been forcefully tilled and regime legitimacy undermined by
courageous networks of dissidents, autonomous groups, and underground publications that
represented the re-emergence of civil society.

Chr ist ine Sadowski, "Aut onomous Gr oups as Agent s of Democr at ic Change in Communist
and Post -Communist East er n Eur ope," in Lar r y Diamond, Political Culture and Democracy in
Developing Countries (Boulder , CO: Lynne Rienner Publisher s, 1993), pp. 163-197.
- 3 2 -
Spawned in the wreckage left by predatory and incompetent states, the catalyzing role of
civil society mobilization against dictatorship has perhaps been most striking in Africa. In a wide
range of countries in sub-Saharan Africa - including Benin, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Ghana,
Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and even Zaire - the initial impetus for
democratic change has emanated from a vast panoply of autonomous actors in civil society:
students, the churches, professional associations, womens groups, trade unions, human rights
organizations, producer groups, intellectuals, journalists, civic associations, and informal
In contrast to the ODonnell-Schmitter model, in the African regime transitions of
the early 1990s, the popular upsurge preceded elite concessions and was an important factor
driving African political leaders to open the door to liberalization.
Particularly crucial in
leveraging protest into regime change was the formation of broad coalitions of civil society
actors, and of linkages between these various groups and powerful, resourceful international
actors. Not since the struggle for decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s have Africans united
so broadly across ethnic, regional, religious, sectoral and occupational divides for a common -
and not coincidentally, similar - purpose: political liberation. These developments created not
only opportunities for civil society to dissolve the grip of authoritarian regimes, but also post-
transition challenges and dilemmas (explored below).
Unfortunately, even very courageous and wide civil society (and political) mobilization
does not always bring an end to authoritarian rule and a transition to democracy. When an
authoritarian regime has internal unity, vastly superior resources, at least some measure of

Lewis, "Polit ical t r ansit ion and t he Dilemma of Civil Societ y in Afr ica;" Chazan, "Afr icas
Democr at ic Challenge: St r engt hening Civil Societ y and t he St at e," and "Bet ween Liber alism and
St at ism: Afr ican Polit ical Cult ur es and Democr acy," in Diamond, ed., Political Culture and
Democracy in Developing Countries, pp. 67-105; Michael Br att on and Nicholas van de Walle, "Towar d
Governance in Africa: Popular Demands and St at e Response," in Goran Hyden and Michael Br at ton,
eds., Governance and Politics in Africa (Boulder , CO: Lynne Rienner Publisher s, 1992), pp. 27-56;
Michael Br at t on, Civil Societ y and Polit ical Tr ansit ions in Afr ica, and E. Gyimah-Boadi,
Associat ional Life, Civil Societ y, and Democr at izat ion in Ghana, in J ohn W. Har beson, Donald
Rot hchild, and Naomi Chazan, Civil S ociety and the S tate in Africa (Boulder , CO: Lynne Rienner
Publisher s, 1994); Br at t on and van de Walle, Democratic Experiments in Africa (Cambr idge:
Cambridge Universit y Press, 1997, fort hcoming); E. Gyimah-Boadi, Civil Societ y in Africa, J ournal
of Democracy 7,l no. 2 (Apr il 1996): 118-132.
Br at t on, Civil Societ y and Polit ical Tr ansit ions, p. 63.
- 3 3 -
international support, and the capacity and will to use brutal repression, it may prevail
indefinitely against even a very broad base of societal opposition. Such has been the tragedy of
Burma, where the National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi won most of the
seats in the 1990 parliamentary elections, which the regime then annulled. Although the NLD
was able to forge an ethnically broad resistance through the Democratic Alliance of Burma
(DAB), it had to do so from exile, and resistance to the regime has been weakened by military
pressure, the resurgence of religious and ethnic rivalries (fanned by the regime), and the lack of
support from neighboring Asian states and from powerful Western ones as well - all increasingly
eager to do business with resource-rich Burma, no matter who governs.
A similar situation has
prevailed in Nigeria, where, since the annulment of the 1993 opposition electoral victory, ethnic
and factional divisions within the democratic movement and international eagerness to mine and
market the countrys natural wealth (oil) have left the military dictatorship firmly in control.

J osef Silverstein, Burmas Uneven Str uggle, J ournal of Democracy 7, no. 4 (October 1996):
For a det ailed explor at ion of t he failed t r ansit ion, see Lar r y Diamond, Ant hony Kir k-
Gr eene, and Oyeleye Oyedir an, Transition without End: Nigerian Politics and Civil S ociety under
Babangida (Boulder , CO: Lynne Rienner Publisher s, 1997, fort hcoming). On t he for midable obst acles
t o democr at ic t r ansit ion under t he successor r egime of Gener al Abacha, see Diamonds concluding
chapt er , supra; J ulius Ihonvber e, Ar e Things Falling Apar t ? The Milit ar y and t he Cr isis of
Democr at isat ion in Niger ia, J ournal of Modern African S tudies 34, 2 (1996): 193-225; Pet er Lewis,
Fr om Pr ebendalism t o Pr edat ion: The Polit ical Economy of Decline in Niger ia, J ournal of Modern
African S tudies 34, 1 (1996); and Richar d J oseph, The Niger ian Nat ion-St at e and t he Resur gence
of Aut horit arianism in Africa, paper pr esented to t he 1996 Meet ing of t he American Political Science
Associat ion, San Fr ancisco, August 30.
- 3 4 -
What purpose is left to civil society in the wake of such apparent defeat? Here again,
even in cases of failed or aborted transitions, it is important to take a long-term, developmental
perspective. Even when authoritarianism resurges, civil society may continue to function, both
overtly - through a variety of religious, professional, cultural, social, and human rights
organizations that may be monitored, subverted, and harassed but barely tolerated - and through
covert means, such as underground media. In Nigeria, human rights organizations continue to
research, publicize, expose, lobby, and organize, sometimes treading more carefully while still
facing arrest and imprisonment; a pirate radio station broadcasts news, information, and
inspiration from the democratic movement with the support of Western democratic donors; and
banned news magazines continue to be produced by plucky journalists who investigate, write,
edit, publish, sleep, and eat in hiding, on the run. Throughout the authoritarian, war-torn, and
pseudodemocratic states of Africa - from Zaire and Liberia to Kenya and Cameroon - civil
society organizations and media struggle against great odds to keep democratic hope and
principles alive, to counter the Orwellian propaganda of the regime, to raise the consciousness
of society, to preserve some ethic of truthfulness and commitment to the public good, and to
contain the worst abuses of the regime (in part by exposing and documenting them to the
international community). Such efforts, however Quixotic they may appear at the time, till the
soil for a new democratic transition at some point in the future. They limit the capacity of the
authoritarian regime to legitimate and consolidate its rule, and to browbeat the public into total
resignation. Not least, in the most pervasively corrupt and abusive contexts - like those in
Burma, Nigeria, and Zaire - civil society organizations (both to resist authoritarianism and to
cooperate for development apart from the state) preserve some kernel of civicness in the culture,
some seeds of honesty, trust, solidarity, efficacy, and hope. Some such alternative to the
prevailing corruption, cynicism, exploitation, and powerlessness is vital if a society is to have
some chance of constructing democracy - and not simply replacing one form of authoritarianism
with another - when the opportunity for regime change next presents itself.
A long-term, developmental view of democracy stresses the importance of systematic,
grassroots efforts to build social capital and cultivate democratic networks, norms, and
expectations. An important example of such an effort is the work of the Zimbabwean human
rights organization, Zimrights. It is not only engaging in traditional human rights reporting and
- 3 5 -
legal defense but is also raising political consciousness and inculcating democratic habits through
innovative civic education programs. Utilizing group discussion and community theater,
Zimrights first gets people to talk about and portray the everyday shortcomings of governance
and public life, and then links those complaints to more systemic issues of human rights,
accountability, citizen responsibility, and good governance. In this way, Zimrights is connecting
people to one another as citizens, through discussion and organizational membership, and
perhaps most dramatically through the collective exercise of writing and staging a community
play. Through a weeks presence in a community, Zimrights activists begin to lift the fog of civic
apathy, resignation, and fear, and to generate a public expectation and demand for real
democracy. As the corruption and arrogance of the countrys longtime ruling party deepens
(following a life cycle strikingly similar to that of neighboring African states), Zimrights
grassroots work at civic education and mobilization is sowing the seeds for an eventual transition
to democracy.
Civil society faces the most trying circumstances in collapsed and war-ravaged states.
Yet even here it may have the potential to make a positive, even dramatic, contribution.
Religious, human rights, women's and student groups, trade unions, and other civic organizations
for peace and reconciliation can play a crucial role in helping to provide a neutral framework for
negotiation between warring parties and then helping to administer the process of political and
societal reconstruction, including the rehabilitation and reintegration into society of former
combatants. Such has been the case in Liberia, where hundreds of NGOs have been operating
amidst the chaos of the civil war, and have helped provide job training, counseling, food, and
medicine to ex-combatants.
In Chad, the civic organization Chad Non-Violence is working with
other NGOs to teach principles of human rights, non-violence, and peaceful conflict resolution
to youth, women, and the military. Such groups may seem to provide a thin reed of hope in a
society where arms are plentiful, frustrations pervasive, and state elites still wantonly abusive of

Int er views wit h Zimr ight s Execut ive Dir ect or David Chimhini and Zimr ight s communit y
t heat r e specialist s, Har ar e, Mar ch 17-19, 1997.
David Pet er son, "Liberia: Crying for Freedom," J ournal of Democracy 7, 2 (April 1996): 148-
- 3 6 -
human rights. But a culture of peace and accommodation can only be developed gradually, and
the work of civil society organizations is vital to this transformation.
A vibrant civil society serves the development, deepening and consolidation of
democracy in many ways. The first and most basic democratic function of civil society is to
provide "the basis for the limitation of state power, hence for the control of the state by society,
and hence for democratic political institutions as the most effective means of exercising that
After the transition, this involves checking, monitoring, and restraining the exercise
of power by formally democratic states, and holding them accountable to the law and public
expectations of responsible government. Few developments are more destructive to the
legitimacy of new democracies than blatant and pervasive political corruption, particularly during
periods of painful economic restructuring when many social groups are being asked to sustain
tremendous economic and social sacrifices. New democracies, following long periods of arbitrary
and statist authoritarian rule, lack the legal and bureaucratic institutions to contain corruption at
the outset. Without a vigorously free, independent, and investigative press, and civic groups
pressing for institutional reform, corruption is likely to flourish, as it has in Brazil, Argentina,
Zambia, Pakistan, Thailand, and most states of the former Soviet Union.
The function of checking and limiting the power of the state overlaps with the civic
function I will describe below, of institutionally reforming the state. A growing number of civic
organizations are turning their agendas to the pursuit of reforms to deter and control political and
bureaucratic corruption. But increasingly, as with IDASA in South Africa and the Evilio Javier
Foundation in the Philippines, they are also monitoring the performance of government bodies,
and even assessing the performance of individual government ministers and representatives.
Wider, freer, more open and independent flows of information are the indispensable foundation

Samuel P. Hunt ingt on, "Will Mor e Count r ies Become Democr at ic?" Political S cience
Quarterly 99, no. 2 (Summer 1984), p. 204. See also Lipset , Political Man, p. 52.
- 3 7 -
for civil society checks against the abuse of state power. In this sense, specialized publications
and journals that make the conduct of government affairs accessible to the more educated and
informed public of opinion leaders, academics, associational officers, and the like play a crucial
role in facilitating scrutiny and critical evaluation.
The mass media in general play a vital role. In a democracy, the abuse of power thrives
behind a veil of secrecy and opaque procedures. Transparency is a precondition for
accountability and reform (which is why the most important anti-corruption organization in the
world has chosen for its name Transparency International). Investigation and exposure does not
guarantee popular reaction, punishment, disgrace, and deterrence, but it can facilitate it, and
galvanize a civil society into motion. The gathering public and civil society pressure to reform
Mexicos political institutions and push the country past the threshold of real electoral democracy
owes in part to the emergence of an increasingly independent press that has broken free of the
historic chains of deference, dependence, cooptation, and corruption that made Mexican
newspapers accomplices of the state and the ruling party. With the awakening of organized
forces in civil society and the liberalization of the Mexican economy and polity, financially
autonomous and politically independent newspapers have emerged to take on previously taboo
subjects, such as drug trafficking, official corruption, electoral fraud, opposition protest, political
repression, and the Mexican Military.
At least, the struggle is now engaged and out in the open.
A similar effect has been observable - within a much more democratic context - in South Korea,
where growing press freedom, pluralism, and assertiveness has brought much more frequent
exposure of government corruption and a significantly lower threshold of public tolerance for it.
This, in conjunction with the mobilization of civic organizations and the close cooperation

Chappell Lawson, New Media, New Democr acies: Polit ical Tr ansit ion and t he Emergence
of a Fr ee Pr ess, Ph.D. Disser tation (in pr ocess), Depar t ment of Polit ical Science, St anford University.
- 3 8 -
between them and the independent press, has helped produce reform laws to make banking and
real estate transactions more transparent.

Seong, Civil Societ y and Democr at ic Consolidat ion in Kor ea, and David St einber g,
Cont inuing Democr at ic Refor m: The Unfinished Symphony, in Lar r y Diamond and Byung-Kook
Kim, eds., Consolidating Democracy in the Republic of Korea (for t hcoming).
- 3 9 -
The checking and limiting function of civil society is a particularly clear manifestation
of the reserve of influence that organized citizens retain but only periodically exercise with
vigor in the civic culture.
Monitoring is a constant function which must be performed by the
press and various civic, interest, and watchdog groups. But broad civic mobilization to contain
or punish abuse occurs only in cases of serious abuse, where the institutions of horizontal
accountability - the courts, the legislature, the central bank, and so on - are either implicated
themselves or too weak and compromised to act on their own. The broad outpouring of press
scrutiny and opinion and organizational mobilization against the corruption and illegal acts of
Presidents Richard Nixon in the United States (in 1974), Fernando Collor de Mello in Brazil (in
1992), and Carlos Andres Prez in Venezuela (in 1992-93) in each case induced Congress to
move toward impeachment, removing Prez and prompting Collor and Nixon to resign in
The sting of civil society readiness to criticize and mobilize over perceived abuse of state
authority has been repeatedly felt by President Kim Young Sam of Korea, who began as a
popular political reformer but was increasingly forced to backtrack and humbly apologize in the
face of public scandals and controversies during the latter half of his five-year term (1993-1998).
In a particularly momentous showdown, President Kim and his party were forced to back down
in early 1997 after they passed new labor reform and national security laws in a secretive pre-
dawn meeting of the National Assembly with opposition party members absent. The actions
triggered several weeks of labor strikes (the largest and costliest in the countrys history), public
demonstrations joined by tens of thousands of students, support from the Church and other
middle-class sympathizers, and vociferous condemnation from both the Korean and international
press. What fueled the scope and intensity of public outrage was not so much the labor reform
itself, making it easier for business to lay off workers (which Korean organized labor had long
opposed but was badly needed to improve the Korean economys sagging competitiveness).
Rather, civil society was provoked by what it perceived as violations of democratic principle: the
rushed and furtive manner in which the bill was passed; the deferral for five years of a parallel
promised reform, sought by labor, that would have made it easier for unions to organize (by

Almond and Ver ba, The Civic Culture, p. 347.
- 4 0 -
lifting the old corporatist prohibition on more than one union in an industry); and the passage
during that secret session of other legislation, including a bill to give broad new investigative
powers to the nations intelligence agency.

Sout h Kor ea: Cult ur e Clash, The Economist, J anuar y 11, 1997, pp. 35-36; Seoul Leader
Fails t o Halt Labor St r ife, New York Times, J anuar y 23, 1997, p. A6. Labor Rivals Team Up in
Sout h Kor ea, S an Francisco Chronicle, J anuary 27, 1997, p. A8. In a par t ial concession, t he ruling
part y passed legislation in March 1997 recognizing multiple unions at both the nat ional and company
levels and in essence dismant ling t he old st at e cor por at ist ar r angement s for labor cont r ol.
Par t icular ly r evealing of t he br oadly polit ical scope of t he pr ot est was t hat t he gover nment -
sanct ioned Kor ean Feder at ion of Tr ade Unions joined t he pr ot est t hat had been launched by t he
alt er nat ive and unr ecognized Nat ional Feder at ion of Democr at ic Labor Unions.
- 4 1 -
A second democracy-building function of civil society is to supplement the role of
political parties in stimulating political participation, increasing the political efficacy and skill
of democratic citizens, and promoting an appreciation of the obligations as well as rights of
democratic citizenship. For too many Americans (barely half of whom vote in presidential
elections), this seems merely a quaint homily. But for civil society leaders like Polands
Bronislaw Geremek who have risked everything in the struggle for democracy, "There is no
greater threat to democracy than indifference and passivity on the part of citizens."
A century
and a half ago, the voluntary participation of citizens in all manner of associations outside the
state struck Tocqueville as a bedrock of democratic practice and culture, and of independent
economic vitality, in the young United States. Voluntary "associations may therefore be
considered as large free schools, where all the members of the community go to learn the general
theory of association."
And in particular (to reiterate), voluntary participation in horizontal
networks breeds the social capital that spawns wider participation and cooperation.

Ibid, 11.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 2 (New Yor k: Vint age Books, 1945
[1840]): 124.
- 4 2 -
The generation of democratic habits and skills is not merely (or inevitably) a fortuitous
byproduct of associational activity, As I have already suggested, civil society can also be a vital
and intentional arena for inculcating not only the participatory habits, interests and skills of
democratic citizenship, but the deeper values of a democratic political culture, such as tolerance,
moderation, a willingness to compromise, and a respect for opposing viewpoints. These values
and norms become most stable when they emerge through intense practice, and organizational
participation in civil society provides an important form of practice in political advocacy and
contestation (particularly if authority relations within the organization are structured along
horizontal rather than hierarchical, domineering lines). Beyond this, many civic organizations -
such as Conciencia (a network of womens organizations which began in Argentina and has since
spread to fourteen other Latin American countries) - are working directly in the schools and
among groups of adult citizens to cultivate democratic norms and values through interactive
programs that demonstrate the dynamics of reaching consensus in a group, the possibility for
respectful debate between competing viewpoints, and the means by which people can cooperate
to solve the problems of their own communities.

Mara Rosa de Mart ini and Sofa de Pinedo, J ournal of Democracy 3 (J uly 1992): 138-146;
and Mar a Rosa de Mar t ini, "Civic Par t icipat ion in t he Ar gent ine Democr at ic Pr ocess," in Lar r y
Diamond, ed., The Democratic Revolution: S truggles for Freedom and Pluralism in the Developing
World (New Yor k: Fr eedom House, 1992), pp. 29-52.
- 4 3 -
More than ever before, education for democracy has become an explicit project of civil
society organizations in new democracies, and an international cause. Beginning in 1996 with
support from the United States Information Agency, regional and international networks under
the rubric of CIVITAS have begun to meet and organize to share techniques, strategies, and
curricula for democratic civic education, to be employed both in formal schooling at all grade
levels and in a variety of informal civil society programs to socialize young people and adults and
stimulate their active participation in community affairs.
Over the long run, this could lead to
profound cultural changes, reshaping the way children are educated and relate to authority, the
way they understand their countrys political history, and their readiness to trust and cooperate
with their peers. Increasingly, civic organizations and state educational officials (as well as
official multilateral donors like the Inter-American Development Bank, and to some extent
private enterprise) are cooperating in reforming curricula, training civics teachers, writing
standards for teaching civics and government, and creating new instructional materials for
teaching participatory democracy, economic citizenship, and human rights,. This nicely
demonstrates an essential point of this essay: that if civil society is to help develop and
consolidate democracy, its mission cannot simply be to check, criticize, and resist the state. It
must also involve complementing and improving the state, and enhancing its democratic
legitimacy and effectiveness.
A fourth way in which civil society may serve democracy is by structuring multiple
channels, beyond the political party, for articulating, aggregating, and representing interests. This
function is particularly important for providing traditionally excluded groups - such as women

On J une 2-6, 1995, civic act ivist s, educat ors, and t hinkers fr om 52 count ries met in Prague
t o initiate CIVITAS, an inter nat ional consor tium for civic educat ion t hat aims t o str engt hen effective
educat ion for infor med and r esponsible cit izenship in new and est ablished democr acies. This was
followed by a meet ing in Buenos Air es, Sept ember 29-Oct ober 1, 1996 which br ought t oget her
r epr esent at ives (of civic and communit y or ganizat ions, gover nment educat ion minist r ies,
int er nat ional or ganizat ions, and t he pr ess) fr om 19 Nor t h and Sout h Amer ican count r ies and 20
ot her count r ies wor ldwide. A similar meet ing was planned in Sout h Afr ica for May 1997. The
CIVITAS pr oject is significant not only for t he scope and dept h of it s emphasis on educat ion for
democr acy t hr ough a var iet y of means, but on t he unpr ecedent ed int er nat ional cooper at ion it has
st imulat ed t owar d t his end. In t his sense it r epr esent s t he r apid gr owt h of a new phenomenon I
discuss below, int er nat ional civil societ y. And consist ent wit h it s desir e t o use t he lat est t echnology
t o fost er connect edness and impr ove civic educat ion t echniques, it has an Int er net sit e t o facilit at e
t he exchange of infor mat ion and r esour ces: ht t p://www.civnet .or g.
- 4 4 -
and racial or ethnic minorities - access to power that has been denied them in the "upper
institutional echelons" of formal politics. Even where (as in South America) women have played,
through various movements and organizations, prominent roles in mobilizing against
authoritarian rule, democratic politics and governance after the transition have typically reverted
to previous exclusionary patterns. In Eastern Europe, there are many signs of deterioration in the
political and social status of women after the transition. Only with sustained, organized pressure
from below, in civil society, can political and social equality be advanced, and the quality,
responsiveness, and legitimacy of democracy thus deepened.

Geor gina Waylen, "Women and Democr at izat ion: Concept ualizing Gender Relat ions in
Tr ansit ion Polit ics," World Politics 46 (Apr il 1994): 327-354. Alt hough Waylen is cor r ect t hat
ODonnell and Schmit t er speak t o t he danger s of excessive popular mobilizat ion dur ing t he
t r ansit ion, her crit icism of t he democr acy lit erat ure as a whole for t rivializing t he role of civil societ y
is unfair ly over gener alized and cer t ainly inapplicable t o wor k on Afr ica. Mor eover , accept ing her
challenge t o t r eat civil societ y as a cent r ally impor t ant phenomenon in democr at izat ion does not
r equir e one t o accept her insist ence on defining democr acy t o include economic and social r ight s as
well as polit ical ones.
- 4 5 -
This points to a fifth, related way civil society can deepen democracy - by effecting what
Jonathan Fox calls a transition from clientelism to citizenship at the local level.
Democratization inevitably proceeds unevenly, and authoritarian enclaves frequently persist
most stubbornly at the local or provincial level, especially in rural and less developed areas of
a country. In Mexico and Brazil, India and Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines, Nigeria and
Ghana, Turkey and Russia, the story is more or less the same. It is the local level that provides
the anchor, the social foundation for national chains of patron-client relations. It is at the locality
where lords, caciques, chiefs, and bosses purchase deference and control through the
particularistic dispensation of material rewards. It is first and foremost at the local level where
the horizontal ties and autonomous participation of democratic citizenship are blocked by the
vertical dependence of clientelism.
Just as horizontal relations of trust and reciprocity are the
building blocks of the civic community, so the vertical relations of authority and dependency,
as embodied in patron-client networks, are the building blocks of the uncivic community.
autonomous organization of historically marginalized and dependent people - landless laborers,
indigenous peoples, women, the poor in general - represents a watershed in the struggle for
democracy and social justice, for a society in which citizens can advance and defend their own
interests and identities without fear of external intervention and punishment.
At one and the
same time it empowers the powerless to advance their interests and it severs the psychological
and structural bonds of clientelism that have historically locked them in a dependent and

J onat han Fox, The Difficult Tr ansit ion fr om Client elism t o Cit izenship: Lessons fr om
Mexico, World Politics 46, no. 2 (J anuar y 1994): 151-184, and "Lat in Amer ica's Emer ging Local
Polit ics," J ournal of Democracy 5 (Apr il 1994): 105-116.
Put nam, Making Democr acy Wor k, p. 101.
Fox, The Difficult Tr ansit ion, p. 152.
- 4 6 -
subordinated status, isolated from one another and unable to rally around their common material
or cultural interests.
As Fox emphasizes, the struggle for empowerment and citizenship at the local level is not
smooth and pretty, but dialectical and often violent - constructed gradually and unevenly
through cycles of conflict that leave nascent democratic forces with political resources to draw
on in successive rounds.
That is why, as in India and Brazil, conflicts may intensify and
human rights violations increase as newly conscious groups organize autonomously to assert their
rights and deepen democracy. However, movements of the poor and marginal have two assets
that were not nearly so widely available in previous eras: international media and political
attention to their plights, which often constrains the states ability to utilize or condone repression
against them, and linkages to a growing array of international civil society organizations
(concerned with human rights, indigenous rights, the rights of women and children, sustainable
development, and the environment). The growing density of these transnational civil-society
linkages (often completely skipping over the political level of the nation-state) has significantly
strengthened the ability of marginalized groups to defend their cultures, identities, lands,
environments, and human rights (and in extreme cases their very lives) against abuses by
landlords, developers, miners, security forces, and other agents of state authority.
In India and
elsewhere around the world, it is effectively grinding to a halt the formidable momentum of the
post-World War II period for the construction of large-scale dams.
Sixth, as I have already suggested, a rich and pluralistic civil society, particularly in a
relatively developed economy, will tend to generate a wide range of interests that may cross-cut,
and so mitigate, the principal polarities of political conflict. As new class-based organizations

Ibid, p. 155.
Kat hr yn A. Sikkink, Nongovernment al Or ganizat ions, Human Right s, and Democr acy in
Lat in Amer ica, in Tom Far er , ed., Beyond S overeignty: Collectively Defending Democracy in the
Americas (Balt imor e: J ohns Hopkins Univer sit y Pr ess, 1996), pp. 150-168; Allison Br ysk, Tur ning
Weakness int o St rengt h: The Int ernat ionalizat ion of Indian Right s, Latin American Perspectives 23,
no. 2 (Spr ing 1996): 38-57.
Sanjeev Khagr am, Dams, Development, and Democracy: Transnational S truggles for Power
and Water, Ph.D. Disser t at ion, Depar t ment of Polit ical Science, St anfor d Univer sit y (August 1997,
for t hcoming).
- 4 7 -
and issue-oriented movements arise, they draw together new constituencies that cut across
longstanding regional, religious, ethnic, or partisan cleavages. In toppling communist (and other)
dictatorships and mobilizing for democracy, these new formations may generate a more liberal
type of citizenship that transcends historic divisions and preempts the resurgence of narrow,
ethnically exclusivist nationalist impulses.
To the extent that individuals have multiple interests
and join a wide variety of organizations to pursue and advance those interests, they will be more
likely to associate with different types of people who have divergent political interests and
opinions. These attitudinal cross-pressures will tend to soften the militancy of their own views,
generate a more expansive and sophisticated political outlook, and so encourage tolerance for
differences and a greater readiness to compromise.

On t he impor t ant dist inct ion bet ween political (liber al, inclusionar y) nat ionalism and
ethnic (exclusivist ) nationalism, see Ghia Nodia, Nationalism and Democr acy, J ournal of Democracy
3, no. 4 (Oct ober 1992): 3-22. Nodia ar gues t hat it was pr ecisely t ot alit ar ianisms decades-long
assault on t he st r uct ur es of civil societ y, and t he r ubble it left behind of at omized individuals
sear ching fr ant ically for a common pr inciple t hat made condit ions r ipe for a r evival of nat ionalism.
Because polit ical or civic nat ionalism was interrupt ed or abort ed by communism, t he ethnic element
has become especially st r ong (p. 18).
Lipset , Political Man,70-79.
- 4 8 -
A seventh function of a democratic civil society is recruiting and training new political
leaders. In a few cases, this is a deliberate purpose of civic organizations. As they grow beyond
election monitoring and voter education, a growing number of civic organizations in new
democracies are conducting (typically with support from international foundations) training
programs, on a nonpartisan basis, for local and state elected officials and candidates, emphasizing
not only technical and administrative skills but normative standards of public accountability and
More often, recruitment and training are merely a byproduct of the successful
functioning and engagement with the state of civil society organizations over a long period of
time. Civil society leaders and activists acquire through rising in the internal politics of their
organization and through articulating and representing the interests of their members in public
policy arenas a range of leadership and advocacy skills (and self-confidence) that qualify them
well for service in government and party politics. They learn how to organize and motivate
people, debate issues, raise and account for funds, craft budgets, publicize programs, administer
staffs, canvass for support, negotiate agreements, and build coalitions. At the same time, their
work on behalf of their constituency, or of what they see to be the public interest, and their
articulation of clear and compelling policy alternatives, may gain for them a wider political
following. Interest groups, social movements, and community efforts of various kinds may
therefore train, toughen, and thrust into public notice a richer (and more representative) array of
potential new political leaders than might otherwise be recruited by political parties. Because of
the traditional dominance by men of the corridors of power, civil society is a particularly
important base for the training and recruitment of women (and members of other marginalized
groups) into positions of formal political power. Where the recruitment of new political leaders
within the established political parties has become narrow or stagnant, this function of civil
society may play a crucial role in revitalizing democracy and renewing its legitimacy.

The Evilio J avier Foundat ion was a r elat ively early ent r ant int o t his t ype of act ivit y. Det t e
Pascual, "Organizing People Power in t he Philippines," J ournal of Democracy 1 (Wint er 1990): 102-
- 4 9 -
Eighth, as I have indicated earlier in this essay, many civic organizations, institutes, and
foundations have explicit democracy-building purposes, beyond leadership training. Non-partisan
election-monitoring efforts have been critical to deterring fraud, enhancing confidence in the
electoral process, affirming the legitimacy of the result, or in some cases (as in the Philippines
in 1986 and Panama in 1989) demonstrating an opposition victory despite government fraud.
This function is particularly crucial in founding elections like those which initiated democracy
in Chile, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Zambia, and South Africa.
Democracy institutes and think tanks
are working in a number of countries to reform the electoral system, democratize political parties,
decentralize and open up government, strengthen the legislature, and enhance government
Even to stimulate debate on and awareness of institutional alternatives is an
important contribution to the improvement of democracy. Beyond thinking and debate, civil
society organizations mobilize the broad public support and pressure that is vital to win the
adoption of institutional reforms that may not be appealing to the politicians as a group. One
recent historic instance of this was the concerted public mobilization of the Citizens Coalition
for Economic Justice and other civic groups to reform Koreas banking and real estate
registration laws so as to require that the real names of the transacting parties be recorded. An
important legal tool in the battle against corruption, this reform was finally adopted by the new
Kim Young Sam government soon after it came to power in 1993, as a way of demonstrating its
democratic commitment and reformist credentials. Human rights organizations also play a
crucial role in democratic reform and deepening, even after the transition to formal democracy,
lobbying for greater judicial efficiency and impartiality, improved prison conditions, justice with

Lar r y Gar ber and Glenn Cowan, "The Vir t ues of Par allel Vot e Tabulat ions," J ournal of
Democracy 4 (Apr il 1993): 94-107.
Ar ye Carmon, "Isr aels Age of Reform," J ournal of Democracy 4 (J uly 1993): 114-123; Chai-
Anan Samudavanija, "Promoting Democracy and Building Inst itutions in Thailand," in Diamond, ed.,
The Democratic Revolution, 125-144.
- 5 0 -
respect to particular individuals, increased public awareness of human rights, and greater
institutionalized respect for individual liberties and minority rights.
Ninth, a vigorous civil society widely disseminates information and so empowers citizens
in the collective pursuit and defense of their interests and values. While civil society groups may
sometimes prevail temporarily through the raw political power of their numbers (for example,
in strikes and demonstrations), they generally cannot be effective in contesting government
policies or defending their interests unless they are well informed. This is strikingly true in
debates over military and national security policy, where civilians in developing countries have
generally been lacking woefully in even the most elementary knowledge. An autonomous and
pluralistic press is only one way of providing the public with a wealth of news and alternative
perspectives. Independent organizations may also provide citizens information about government
activities that does not depend on what government says it is doing, and that may only have been
gathered through exhaustive and enterprising investigation. This is a vital technique of human
rights organizations: By contradicting the official story, they make it more difficult to cover up
repression and abuses of power.
The mobilization of new information and understanding are essential to the achievement
of economic reform in a democracy, and this is a tenth function that civil society can play. While
economic stabilization policies typically must be implemented quickly and forcefully by elected
executives in crisis situations, without widespread consultation, more structural economic
reforms - privatization, trade and financial liberalization - appear to be more sustainable and far-
- 5 1 -
reaching (or in many postcommunist countries, only feasible) when they are pursued through the
democratic process.

This is a not able conclusion of a number of t he essays in Lar r y Diamond and Mar c F.
Plat t ner , eds., Economic Reform and Democracy (Balt imor e: J ohns Hopkins Universit y Press, 1995).
See also Luiz Car los Br esser Per eira, J os Mar a Maravall, and Adam Przeworski, Economic Reforms
in New Democracies: A Social Democratic Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge Universit y Press, 1993);
St ephan Haggar d and Rober t R. Kaufman, The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions
(Pr incet on: Pr incet on Univer sit y Pr ess, 1995); and Lar r y Diamond, Democr acy and Economic
Reform: Tensions, Compat ibilit ies, and St rategies for Reconciliat ion, in Edward P. Lazear, Economic
Transition in Eastern Europe and Russia (St anfor d: Hoover Inst it ut ion Pr ess, 1995), pp.107-158.
- 5 2 -
Successful economic reform requires the support of political coalitions in society and the
legislature. These coalitions do not emerge spontaneously; they must be fashioned. Here the
problem is not so much the scale, autonomy, and resources of civil society as the distribution
across interests. Old, established interests that stand to lose from reform tend to be well
organized into, for example, state-sector trade unions and networks that tie the managers of state
enterprises or owners of favored industries to ruling party bosses. These are precisely the interests
that stand to lose from economic reforms that close down inefficient industries, reduce state
intervention, and open the economy to greater domestic and international competition. Newly
emergent and more diffuse interests that stand to gain from reform - for example, farmers, small-
scale entrepreneurs, and consumers - tend to be weakly organized and poorly informed about how
new policies will ultimately affect them. In Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, new actors
in civil society - such as economic policy think tanks, chambers of commerce, and economically
literate journalists, commentators, and television producers - are beginning to overcome the
barriers to information and organization, mobilizing support for (and neutralizing resistance to)
reform policies.

J ohn Sullivan, "Democr at izat ion and Business Int er est s, in Diamond and Plat t ner ,
Economic Reform and Democracy, pp. 182-196.
- 5 3 -
Eleventh, a growing number of civil society organizations (emanating especially from the
religious and human rights communities) are attempting to offer services and develop techniques
of conflict mediation and resolution. Some of these efforts involve formal programs and training
of trainers to relieve political and ethnic conflict and teach groups to solve their disputes through
bargaining and accommodation. But where civil society organizations build up respect and
credibility among a wide ranger of political actors who come to trust in their integrity and
political neutrality, they develop an additional type of reserve of influence that can be drawn
on in a political crisis. This was the case in the Central African Republic, where the Ligue
Centrafricaine des Droits de l'Homme (LCDH) played a crucial mediating rule during two Army
uprisings in 1996. During the first Army mutiny in April 1996 (which claimed at least ten lives),
Ligue officials played the chief mediating role between the military mutineers and the
government, "drafting the protocols [to provide the soldiers their back pay] and ultimately
persuading the soldiers to lay down their arms."
A second, more serious uprising, beginning
May 18 and lasting ten days, took more the form of a military coup attempt, and threatened not
only democracy but even civil war with its ethnic overtones, internal military divisions,
distribution of arms, demands for the resignation of the president, and looting and terrorizing of
the civilian population. Although this uprising was ultimately put down by French military
intervention, its political resolution, which saw the society rally behind democracy, was catalyzed
by the Ligue's declared support for the regime and its mediation of negotiations between
government and opposition forces within the political arena, as well as between the regime and
the military rebels. The Ligue drafted and won acceptance for "the political accord, including
amnesty, disarmament, and resignation of the head of the army, that actually resolved the
The ability of the Ligue to perform this democracy-saving role owed to the "consistent
neutrality and objectivity" and widespread image of "moral credibility" it had established during
the country's previous five years of democratic struggle.

David Pet er son, pr ivat e communicat ion, August 1996.
Pet er son, ibid.
- 5 4 -
Twelfth, a vigorous civil society can strengthen the social foundations of democracy even
when its activities focus on community development and have no explicit connection to or
concern with political democracy per se.
Effective grassroots development efforts may relieve
the burden of expectations fixed on the state, and so relieve the intensity of politics. At the same
time, they build social capital by bringing citizens together to cooperate as peers for their
common advancement. A par t icular ly not ewor t hy example of t his is t he gener al
phenomenon of micr oent er pr ise lending and t he specific success of t he Gr ameen
Bank in Bangladesh. The bank lends money in small amount s t o t wo million poor
people in Bangladesh t o enable t hem t o st ar t small ent er pr ises (farming, livest ock
raising, food processing, pet t y t rade, and so on). By dispersing access t o capit al t hat
has t ypically been monopolized by r ur al elit es, it is not only fight ing pover t y but
under mining t he deeply ent r enched dependence of t he r ur al poor on local elit es for
cr edit , wages, and agr icult ur al input s. At t he same t ime t hat it weakens ver t ical
chains of client age, it builds new hor izont al solidar it ies by using peer monit or ing
t o subst it ut e for t he physical and monet ar y collat er al t hat t he poor cannot pr ovide.
In t his peer syst em, pover t y-st r icken loan r ecipient s ar e or ganized int o gr oups of
five, and any unpaid loans become t he r esponsibilit y of t he whole gr oup. That
such an inst it ut ional innovat ion can change lives and build social capit al is at t est ed
t o by t he except ional loan-r ecover y r at e of t he Bank - 98 per cent .

Yasmen Mur shed and Nazim Kamr an Choudhur y, Bangladeshs Second Chance, J ournal
of Democracy 8, no. 1 (J anuar y 1997): 80.
- 5 5 -
A final, overarching function of civil society - to which I have already referred - derives
from the success of the above twelve. "Freedom of association," Tocqueville mused, may, "after
having agitated society for some time, ... strengthen the state in the end."
By enhancing the
accountability, responsiveness, inclusiveness, effectiveness and hence legitimacy of the political
system, a vigorous civil society gives citizens respect for the state and positive engagement with
it. In the end, this improves the ability of the state to govern, and to command voluntary
obedience from its citizens. In addition, "By bringing people together in endless combinations
for a great diversity of purposes, a rich associational life may not only multiply demands on the
state, it may also multiply the capacities of groups to improve their own welfare, independently
of the state, especially at the local level."

Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. 2, p. 126.
Lar r y Diamond, "Civil Societ y and t he St r uggle for Democr acy," in Diamond, ed., The
Democratic Revolution, p. 11.
- 5 6 -
To the above list of democratic functions of civil society, I attach some important caveats
and dilemmas for civil society. To begin with, associations and mass media can only perform
their democracy-building roles if they have at least some autonomy from the state in their
financing, operations, and legal standing. As I have noted, democracies vary in the degree to
which they structure interest representation on pluralist as opposed to corporatist lines. However,
while corporatist-style pacts or contracts between the state and peak interest associations may
make for stable macroeconomic management, corporatist arrangements pose a serious threat to
democracy in transitional or newly emerging constitutional regimes. The risk appears greatest
in countries with a history of authoritarian state corporatism - such as Mexico, Egypt, and
Indonesia - where the state has created, organized, licensed, funded, subordinated, and controlled
"interest" groups (and also most of the mass media that it does not officially own and control),
with a view to cooptation, repression, and domination rather than ordered bargaining. By
contrast, the transition to a democratic form of corporatism "seems to depend very much on a
liberal-pluralist past," which most developing and postcommunist states lack.
Limited levels
of economic development, or the absence of a fully functioning market economy, further increase
the danger that corporatism will stifle civil society, even under a formally democratic framework,
because there are fewer autonomous resources and less interest pluralism in society. Even in
countries that have vigorous market economies and now rate as liberal democracies, like South
Korea and Taiwan, the state corporatist legacy casts a certain lingering, neo-authoritarian shadow
over the structure of interest representation. Experience teaches that state corporatist structures
and rules must be completely dismantled if a fully democratic system is to be constructed. Only
after that dismantling, on wholly new foundations, is a Jemocratic corporatist pattern of interest
representation likely to be feasible (if it is even preferred).
By coopting, preempting, or constraining the most serious sources of potential challenge
to its domination (and thus minimizing the amount of actual repression that has to be employed),
state corporatist regimes may purchase a longer lease on authoritarian life. However, such

Philippe C. Schmit t er , "St ill t he Cent ur y of Cor por at ism?" in Wolfgang St r eeck and
Schmit t er , eds., Private Interest Government: Beyond Market and S tate (Bever ly Hills: Sage, 1984),
p. 126. On t he impor t ant dist inct ion bet ween societ al (democr at ic) and st at e cor por at ism, see pp.
- 5 7 -
regimes eventually come under pressure from social, economic, and demographic forces.
Successful socioeconomic development, as in Mexico and Indonesia, produces a profusion of
authentic civil society groups that demand political freedom and autonomy, protected by law.
Social and economic decay, along with massive political corruption, weaken the hold of the
authoritarian corporatist state, undermine the legitimacy of its sponsored associations, and may
give rise to revolutionary movements, like the Islamic fundamentalist movements in Egypt and
Algeria, that promise popular redemption through a new form of state hegemony.
Societal autonomy can go too far, however, even for the purposes of democracy. This is
a second caveat. A hyperactive, confrontational, and relentlessly rent-seeking civil society can
overwhelm a weak, penetrated state with the diversity and magnitude of its demands, saddling
the state with unsustainable and inflationary fiscal obligations, and leaving little in the way of
a truly "public" sector concerned for the overall welfare of society. The state itself must have
sufficient autonomy, legitimacy, capacity, and support to mediate among the various interest
groups, and to implement policies and allocate resources in ways that balance the claims of
competing groups. This is a particularly pressing dilemma for new democracies that seek to
implement much needed economic reform programs in the face of stiff opposition from trade
unions, pensioners, and the state-protected bourgeoisie, which is why countervailing forces in
civil society must be educated and mobilized.
In many new democracies emerging out of long periods of totalitarian, highly repressive,
or abusive rule, there is a deeper problem, stemming from the orientation of civil society as
movements of resistance to the state or disengagement from its authority. As Geremek observes,
this revives the original eighteenth century conception of civil society as in opposition to the
Where authoritarian rule is the most arbitrary, lawless, and exploitative, social
mobilization against it also tends to be not merely risky but lawless, angry, and anomic - or in
Putnams term, uncivic. The legacy in much of Africa is what Clestin Monga calls a "civic

Br onislaw Ger emek, "Civil Societ y Then and Now," J ournal of Democracy 3 (Apr il 1992):
- 5 8 -
Thirty years of authoritarian rule have forged a concept of indiscipline as a method of popular
resistance. In order to survive and resist laws and rules judged to be antiquated, people have had
to resort to the treasury of their imagination. Given that life is one long fight against the state, the
collective imagination has gradually conspired to craftily defy everything which symbolizes public

Clest in Monga, "Civil Societ y and Democr at isat ion in Fr ancophone Afr ica," J ournal of
Modern African S tudies 33, no. 3 (Sept ember 1995): 363. See also Monga, Anthropologie de la Colre:
S ocit et Dmocratie en Afrique Noire (Par is: LHarmat t an, 1994), and t he English-language edit ion,
The Anthropology of Anger (Boulder , CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996). For an earlier t reat ment
of Afr ican societ ies pr ogr essive economic and polit ical disengagement fr om t he st at e, see Donald
Rot hchild and Naomi Chazan, eds., The Precarious Balance: S tate and S ociety in Africa (Boulder and
London: West view Pr ess, 1988).
- 5 9 -
In many respects, a similar broad cynicism, indiscipline, and alienation from state
authority - indeed from politics altogether - was bred by decades of communist rule in Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union, though it led to somewhat different (and in Poland, much
more broadly organized) forms of dissidence and resistance. Some countries, like Poland,
Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the Baltic states, had previous civic traditions that could be
recovered. These countries have generally made the most progress (though still quite partial)
toward reconstructing state authority on a democratic foundation while beginning to constitute
a modern, liberal-pluralist civil society. Those states where civic traditions were weakest and
predatory rule greatest - Romania, Albania, Russia, the Central Asian republics, and most of sub-
Saharan Africa - face a far more difficult time, with civil societies still fragmented and emergent
market economies still heavily outside the framework of law and thus "uncivil."
This civic deficit constitutes a third major caveat with respect to the positive value of
civil society for democracy. Civil society must be autonomous from the state, but not alienated
from it. It must be watchful but respectful of state authority; it must manifest some degree of
balance between the subject and participant orientations. The image of a noble, vigilant,
organized civil society checking at every turn the predations of a self-serving state, preserving
a pure detachment from its corrupting embrace, is highly romanticized and misleading in the
construction of a viable democracy.

Richar d Rose, "Towar d a Civil Economy," J ournal of Democracy 3 (Apr il 1992): 13-26.
- 6 0 -
A fourth caveat or dilemma concerns a different and growing type of dependence - not
on the state but on the international community. The character and possibilities of civil society
mobilization in nascent democracies and less developed countries have been transformed in the
past few decades by three dramatic changes in the world system: the rapid growth of
transnational linkages among civil society organizations from different countries, the emergence
of truly international movements and organizations (such as Amnesty International,
Transparency International, Survival International, the World Council of Churches, and the
World Council of Indigenous Peoples), and the explosion of democracy assistance programs in
the wealthier democracies.
From the international environment, civil society organizations
have drawn ideas, inspiration, skills, and most of all funding. This has facilitated activity on a
scale that would otherwise have been unimaginable in poorer countries where resources in the
private sector are scarce, or controlled by authoritarian elites, or where (as in most of Latin
America) there simply is not a tradition of large-scale private philanthropy for civic purposes.
In many less developed countries, quite a number of civil society organizations have sprung into
being because international funding was available, and they could not exist without it.
International support is enabling, but it also imposes, actively or passively, an agenda of
its own. At one level, there is a philosophical or conceptual problem: to what extent are todays
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in less developed countries self-generating when they
are so heavily reliant on support from abroad? It depends. Some NGOs really are creatures of
international support and have at best a thin base of indigenous initiative, support, and
organization. This does not mean that they do not do valuable work for democracy and
development (this varies widely), but it may call into question the extent to which they are truly
civil society actors of their own country.
Other NGOs are no less heavily dependent on

The lat t er ar e channeling t ens of millions of dollar s (quit e possibly hundr eds of millions
t otal) t o civil society or ganizations, inst it ut es, and media bot h t hrough official development assist ance
or ganizat ions and t hrough nongover nment al democr acy promot ion foundations like t he U.S. National
Endowment for Democr acy, the Br it ish West minst er Foundat ion, t he Canadian Int er national Cent er
for Human Right s and Democr at ic Development and t he German polit ical part y foundat ions (which
have been oper at ing t he longest ). For an account of many of t he pr incipal act or s and illust r at ions
of r ecipient s, see Lar r y Diamond, Promoting Democracy in the 1990s: Actors and Instruments, Issues
and Imperatives (New Yor k: Car negie Cor por at ion of New Yor k, 1995).
In one sense, t he pr oblem was much mor e sever e dur ing t he Cold War , when t he Soviet
- 6 1 -
international funding, but have a broad base of participation and a consciousness and agenda that
is clearly self-generated. And there are many collective actors who inhabit a gray zone in
between. To some extent, this is a dilemma or challenge for international civil society, to
evaluate carefully applicants for funding to determine what kind of base they have in their own
society, and who they represent (if, really, anybody beyond themselves).

Union (and it s communist allies) and t he Unit ed St at es (and it s allies) cover t ly suppor t ed var ious
fr ont or ganizat ions t hat did t heir bidding in t he st r uggle for int er nat ional supr emacy. Today,
assist ance t o NGOs is mainly over t r at her t han cover t , and is much less dr iven by st r at egic
calculat ions. St ill, even if money is given openly and for more idealist ic int ent ions, t hose int ent ions
impose pr ior it ies and condit ions on r ecipient s, and favor some t ypes of act ivit y over ot her s.
Representation is another pointed horn of the international dilemma. Popular
constituencies may be organized by a variety of groups which then compete to speak for the
entire constituency on the international stage (and to receive international funding to advance its
cause domestically). International organizations sometimes also compete for influence on the
ground (even out of good intentions). These forms of competition may foster healthy pluralism
in interest representation, or they may unwittingly heighten a divisiveness that disperses scarce
human resources and weakens the voice and impact of the movement. The question of voice can
be particularly crucial. Effective transnational linkages require the ability to communicate with
sophisticated interlocutors and funders in the developed world. But the more representative
social movement leaders are of marginalized and oppressed peoples, the less effectively they may
be able to present their cause to the outside world. The poignancy of this dilemma, which has
also fanned division in the movements of indigenous peoples, has been captured by Alison
- 6 2 -
Those with the skills to lead internationally may be the least representative: for example, one
extremely effective Indian leader encountered at the UN Working Group [on Indigenous Peoples]
was a law student, another was a former Congressional representative in his country, and a third
was one of his peoples eight college graduates. Conversely, one of the few truly grassroots
delegates at the UN [meeting] - an Andean peasant woman - was ultimately unable to deliver her
prepared statement.

Br ysk, Tur ning Weakness int o St r engt h, p. 52.
Beyond all questions of organizational authenticity, legitimacy, and voice, there is the
simple existential problem of surviving in the face of changing international funding priorities
and diminishing assistance budgets. In a context where the state is manifestly repressive and
unrepresentative, development assistance increasingly gravitates to NGOs as a vehicle for raising
human capacities (economic and political) and improving the quality of life. As authoritarian
rule liberalizes to allow more space for civil society, more international donor funding is
channeled to NGOs, and then, at that historical moment when the transition is clearly on -
when voters must be educated and trainers and monitors mobilized on a crash basis - the channels
of funding swell into a mighty river. Participation in civil society (separate and apart from party
politics) rises, and the civic quest to build democracy reaches new heights. Then the transition
happens and the bubble bursts. Some international donors move on to political dramas in other
countries, while many transfer the bulk of their attention and investment to the now (presumably
legitimate) governmental agencies of the new democracy.
This life cycle of international enthusiasm for civil society has two major consequences.
For a great many NGOs, it means extinction. And as I will explore below shortly, for others it
means a growing dependence on agencies of the state as the primary alternative source of
funding. The post-transition recession of civil society has greatly concerned democratic activists
and thinkers in South Africa, where human rights and developmental NGOs, and more loosely
structured, grassroots community-based organizations (CBOs), proliferated in the later years
of the anti-apartheid struggle with the dramatic expansion of international donor support.
- 6 3 -
Immediately preceding the April [founding] 1994 elections, the sector was probably at its peak,
with approximately 54,000 NGOs and CBOs, of which about 20,000 could be considered to be
development-oriented. These organizations provided a broad range of services, from educational
support and training (particularly for blacks) to rural development and media services; many were
involved in the promotion of human rights. Since the elections, a significant number of NGOs,
including many that had existed for a long time, have closed or drastically curtailed their
And many others fell into dire financial straits. As James and Caliguire note, it is natural
that a legitimate government, more concerned with real and equitable development, will become
more active in service delivery after the transition. But the legitimacy, networks, expertise, and
experience of NGOs make them important intermediaries and partners in this task, and in any
case, the need for effective organization and representation of a myriad of grassroots interests
does not cease with the transition to democracy. Moreover, in many statist and communist
systems, the post-transitional shrinkage of civil society is also apparent, even though economic
reforms are often shrinking the states involvement in delivering social services.

Wilmot J ames and Dar ia Caliguir e, The New Sout h Afr ica: Renewing Civil Societ y,
J ournal of Democracy 7, no. 1 (J anuar y 1996): 61.
- 6 4 -
Domestic political dynamics, flowing from what seems to be an internal life cycle of
many democratic transitions, also weaken civil society. Once the authoritarian regime
disappears, the focus of political life shifts from a unifying struggle against an odious enemy to
a much more dispersed and normal competition among parties and interests in the emerging
democratic state. Inevitably, civil society and especially democratizing and single-issue social
movements lose their primacy. Political parties and more conventional interest groups take
center stage, and many individuals and groups turn to more private-regarding concerns as the
mere advent of democracy satisfies some of the most passionate revindications of movements.
The euphoria of the immediate post-transition period quickly wanes, and the broad associational
fronts that struggled against authoritarian rule break apart.
What had been moral political societies became political blocs in Europes
postcommunist states, and in Africa as well.
Class and ethnic divisions once again fragmented
society, and the leadership ranks (and thus operational capacities) of civil society organizations
were rapidly depleted as activists were massively drawn into politics, government, and (in
Europe) business. The social inheritances of communism in Europe and neopatrimonial statism
in Africa also reasserted themselves in renewed state dependence, cooptation, mistrust, and
societal atomization, revealing the scarcity of social capital and "the lack of a culture of a free
collective activity."
In fact, "preliberal," illiberal, and uncivic cultural orientations constitute
a major obstacle to democratic consolidation in much of Africa and the postcommunist world.
In both regions as well, civil society has been further hampered after the transition by the harsh

Schmit t er , Civil Societ y East and West , p. 242.
Aleksander Smolar , Civil Societ y aft er Communism: Fr om Opposit ion t o At omizat ion,
J ournal of Democracy 7, no. 1 (J anuary 1996): 29. See also Gyimah-Boadi, Civil Societ y in Afr ica.
Smolar , Civil Societ y aft er Communism, p. 33.
- 6 5 -
economic conditions of the 1990s, which have driven people to more urgent preoccupations with
the exigencies of daily survival, and have rendered African associations much more vulnerable
to the compromising blandishments of domineering states.
Many of those NGOs that did not die after the transition have had to adapt their mission
fairly dramatically in order to continue to function on anything like their existing scale.
Adaptation, as I have suggested, is a dimension of institutionalization and can be a healthy
phenomenon: after some period, voter education becomes a less compelling priority and the
autonomous public procedures for free and fair elections may become institutionalized. At that
point, civil society organizations need to tackle other challenges to deepen democracy. But
where adaptation diminishes the autonomy, shrinks the grassroots base, and dilutes the
democratic zeal of the organization, it comes at a price.
Chile is another instance of a civil society that had an intense romance with the
international donor community and then was jilted after the transition. For international donors
with limited and even declining budgets, the impulse to withdraw is even more powerful in
upper-middle-income countries like Chile because the assumption is that political repression
is the main obstacle to a vibrant civil society, and once the lid of authoritarianism is lifted the
country ought to be rich enough to support its own NGOs. The problem in such countries
(including prominently Argentina as well) is that these countries are weak in the social capital
and sense of public-spiritedness that enables civil society organizations to raise substantial funds
from the private sectors of their own countries. Moreover, many of the most important NGOs
represent women, youth, informal workers, the poor, ethnic minorities, and others who
collectively tend to lack the material resources to sustain collective organization on a large scale.
Thus, NGOs often decide that they must turn to the state to survive. Chiles PARTICIPA
evolved from a focus on citizenship education and participation to a wider range of strategic
goals concerned with youth, local development, social integration, and public sector training.
When international funding for these programs (primarily from the U.S. Agency for International
Development) dried up, PARTICIPA began to secure contracts from its own government to
continue these types of efforts. Now, PARTICIPAs role as an implementing agent of
government policy may limit its role as a critic of those policies. Time will tell whether the
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survival of the institution alters its role as an independent agent of social change.
As major
international funding dries up for civil society organizations in South Africa, they face a similar
dilemma. Many are already evolving in a similar direction, with possibly greater dangers to
autonomy given the proclivity to corporatist relations of both government and many civil society
leaders, and given as well the constraining hangover of repressive policies, laws, and structures
inherited from the old regime.
There is no easy answer for this dilemma of international dependence. My own view is
that civil society organizations are likely to have more space to act independently and define their
own agendas when their financial dependence is on foreign donors than on their own
government, especially when that international dependence is dispersed among a number of
different donors (public and private) from many different countries. In that case, no established
democracy or donor organization is in a position to dictate an agenda, and the loss of one large
grant does not threaten the survival of the organization. For that reason, and because NGOs in
most developing and postcommunist countries are unlikely to be able to raise from their own
societies in the near future anything like the funding they need to perform the democracy-
building functions they are capable of performing, on the scale of which they are capable of
acting, international donor priorities and strategies need to be rethought. Relative to the massive
aid that flows to government programs and agencies, international donor funding for civil society
is a small trickle. A modest shift in the balance between state and civil society, coupled with a
reconsidered willingness to remain engaged longer with the civil societies of some more
advanced developing countries, could make possible very substantial continuing investments in
building the civic infrastructure of democracy.

J oel M. J ut kowit z, Civil Societ y and Democr at ic Development in Chile. Paper pr esent ed
t o t he 1995 Meet ing of t he Amer ican Polit ical Science Associat ion, Chicago, August 31-Sept ember 3,
1995, p. 21.
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J ames and Caliguir e, The New Sout h Afr ica, p. 64.
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Without question, civil society makes its deepest, most organic and sustainable
contribution to democracy when it cultivates a significant base of financial support among a
broad and indigenous constituency. Beyond the greater autonomy it confers, this is true for two
additional reasons. When members give money voluntarily to an organization, they are more
likely to feel some sense of identity with it and ownership of it. Ironically, perhaps, this is
particularly true for members of modest means who are only able to give in small amounts (as
opposed to upper middle-class Americans who write checks to dozens of organizations a year).
When such financial donations are combined with broad grassroots organization and
participation, they are likely to produce a particularly strong membership commitment and
demand for democratic control. This is why a mass-membership campaign is a shrewd long-run
tactic for organizational development. In the case of the Zimbabwean human rights organization,
Zimrights, the annual dues of thousands of members account for only a small portion of the total
budget, but they generate a widely dispersed base of committed supporters around the country.
Beyond the depth of commitment that is generated, raising indigenous financial contributions
- in amounts large and small - creates cultural norms of cooperation, trust, reciprocity, and
public-spiritedness; it generates social as well as financial capital. This is why international
support for civil society organizations should increasingly focus on strategies to encourage and
institutionalize this giving. Matching funding provides one potential method: if an NGO can
honestly say it will receive five or ten dollars in international support for every dollar it raises
locally, that sharply increases the incentive of the organization to raise locally and of local donors
(large and small) to give. (It also increases the efficacy of small donors who can see that their
contributions are being multiplied to much larger effect). Other methods could seek to build
organizational endowments (in part again with matching or challenge grants), and to help

Wit h it s 6,000-plus member s (as of Mar ch 1997) and or ganizer s in 8 of 11 pr ovinces,
Zimr ights repr esents the most subst antial grassr oot s polit ical base of any organizat ion in the count ry,
outside of the count rys r uling part y. Interviews with Zimr ight s Executive Direct or , David Chimhini,
and wit h Zimbabwean jour nalist s and polit ical scient ist s, Mar ch 17-19, 1997.
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motivate and assist major owners of private wealth to set up philanthropic trusts as a way to leave
an enduring legacy for their society.
Institutionalization raises a fifth dilemma or caveat for civil society. A social or political
movement is only sustainable with organization. Sustainable organization means, to some
extent, bureaucratization, the development of more complex vertical structure and more
permanent and professional staff. This returns us to Michels dilemma: who says organization
says oligarchy. This dimension of the organizational life cycle parallels and interacts with the
diminution of autonomy. Again, the evolution of Chiles PARTICIPA provides a graphic
illustration. Once PARTICIPA became an institution, questions of membership and control
became important issues. As is usually the case when volunteer movements become
institutionalized, a certain tension developed between the role of the professionals and the
volunteers, which in the case of PARTICIPA has been resolved through the professionalization
of the organization.
This has led to a distinctly less mass-based organization, utilizing fewer
A sixth caveat concerns the role of politics, as I have already suggested. Interest groups
and civic organizations cannot substitute for coherent political parties with broad and relatively
enduring bases of popular support. For interest groups cannot aggregate interests as broadly
across social groups and political issues as political parties can. Nor can they provide the
discipline necessary to form and maintain governments and pass legislation. In this respect (and
not only this one), one may question the thesis that a strong civil society is strictly
complementary to the political and state structures of democracy. To the extent that interest
groups dominate, enervate, or crowd out political parties as conveyors and aggregators of
interests, they can present a problem for democratic consolidation. And in an age when the
electronic media, increased mobility, and the profusion and fragmentation of discrete interests

J ut kowit z, Civil Societ y and Democr at ic Development in Chile, p. 19.
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are all undermining the organizational bases for strong parties and party systems, this is
something democrats everywhere need to worry about.

J uan J . Linz, "Change and Cont inuit y in t he Nat ur e of Cont empor ar y Democr acies," in
Mar ks and Diamond, eds., Reexamining Democracy, 184-190.
In fact, a stronger and broader generalization appears warranted. The single most
important and urgent factor in the consolidation of democracy is not civil society but political
institutionalization. If consolidation is the process by which democracy becomes the only game
in town, broadly and profoundly legitimate at both the elite and mass levels, cultural change is
crucial, but it must be reinforced by a political system that works to deliver the political goods
of democracy, and eventually, at least to some degree, the economic and social goods people
expect as well. The normalization of politics and entrenchment of legitimacy that consolidation
entails requires the expansion of citizen access, the development of democratic citizenship and
culture, the broadening of leadership recruitment and training, and other functions that civil
society performs. But it also requires orderly and effective democratic governance, and that is
something that civil society cannot in and of itself provide. Political institutions - parties,
legislatures, judicial systems, local governments, and the bureaucratic structures of the state more
generally - must become more capable, complex, coherent, and responsive.
Despite their impressive capacity to survive years (in cases a decade or more) of social
strife and economic instability and decline, many new democracies in Latin America, Eastern
Europe, Asia, and Africa will probably break down in the medium to long run unless they can
reduce their often appalling levels of poverty, inequality, and social injustice and, through
market-oriented reforms, lay the basis for sustainable growth. For these and other policy
challenges, not only strong parties but effective state institutions are vital. They do not guarantee
wise and effective policies, but they do ensure that government will be able to make and
implement policies of some kind, and not flail about, impotent or deadlocked.
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Robust political institutions are needed to accomplish economic reform under democratic
conditions. Strong, well structured executives, buttressed by a team of technocratic experts at
least somewhat insulated from the day-to-day pressures of politics, make possible the
implementation of painful and disruptive reform measures. Settled and aggregative (as opposed
to fragmented and volatile) party systems - in which one or two broadly based, centrist parties
consistently obtain electoral majorities or near majorities - are better positioned to resist narrow
class and sectoral interests and maintain the continuity of economic reforms across
Effective legislatures may sometimes obstruct reforms, but if they are
composed of strong, coherent parties with a centrist dominance, in the end they will do more to
reconcile democracy and economic reform by providing a political base of support and some
means for absorbing and mediating protests in society. More broadly, autonomous, professional
and well staffed judicial systems are indispensable to securing a rule of law.

For a part icularly compelling analysis of t he import ance of polit ical inst it ut ional st ruct ures
and designs for accomplishing economic r efor m under democr acy, see Haggar d and Kaufman, The
Political Economy of Democratic Transitions.
These caveats and dilemmas are sobering, but they do not nullify my principal thesis.
Civil society can, and typically must, play a central role in building and consolidating democracy.
Its role is not decisive, not even the most important, at least not initially. However, the more
active, pluralistic, resourceful, institutionalized, and internally democratic is civil society, and
the more effectively it balances the tensions in its relations with the state - between autonomy
and cooperation, vigilance and loyalty, skepticism and trust, assertiveness and civility - the more
likely democracy will be to emerge and endure.